Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feel Like Snack? They Can Make or Break Diet

Snacks, by definition, are eaten in between meals to help curb hunger or give you a boost of needed energy.
They can be part of a daily nutrition plan to get all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. They can also derail diet plans if a bite of this and sip of that puts you over your limit. So as you pop into convenience stores while you’re out and about or linger longingly near the candy display at the supermarket check out counter, think before you succumb to a snack attack.
When snacks are good
Snacks should be considered mini-meals with a mix of nutrients that includes whole grain or high fiber foods and some lean protein. Here are some healthy grab and go snack ideas:
• Small oatmeal raisin cookie with a small carton of fat free or 1 percent milk.
• A few pieces of dried fruit such as prunes, apricots or raisins with a small carton of lowfat yogurt.
• A couple of packaged cheese sticks (Colby, cheddar, reduced fat if available) with whole grain crackers.
• Fresh apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter.
• Make-your-own lettuce wraps — a slice of turkey or leftover chicken wrapped in a romaine lettuce leaf.
• Hard boiled egg with a couple of carrot sticks.
Snacks can be a great opportunity to sneak in the needed number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A bunch of grapes and a handful of nuts make a great snack while driving on a long car trip or during an unexpectedly long commute home. The fruit is not only a source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but it also contains fluids to help keep you hydrated.
When snacks aren’t good
Some folks chomp on snacks because they’re bored, not hungry, and that of course is not a good thing, especially if you’re trying to limit calories for weight management. Salty snacks can put daily sodium intake over the limit. Fried snacks can put you over your daily fat and calorie limit. Sweet snacks can spike blood sugar levels that come crashing down too fast, causing an energy crash, too. Any snack that puts you above and beyond your calorie level for the day is overkill nutritionally and you’ll see the results on the bathroom scale as the numbers go in the wrong direction! Just because that fried chicken finger choice at a fast food place is called a “snack pack” doesn’t mean it’s the right snack for you.
Best diet snacks
Snacks are not only a welcome part of a weight management plan, they can be allies in the battle. You should plan on no more than 200 calories per snack. The fiber, fluid and lean protein in small portions of foods chosen as snacks can keep your blood sugar on an even keel to help you curb hunger pangs and keep energy levels up so that you get the physical activity that you need.
Healthy snacks include combinations of fruit ( fresh, frozen, canned in juice), vegetables (fresh, cooked, in juice form) whole grains (breads, crackers, tortillas or cereals, lowfat or nonfat dairy products (glass of milk, carton of yogurt, serving of cottage cheese, slices of cheese, frozen nonfat milk desserts), nuts (a handful, not a canful), legumes (black bean dip, hummus spread) and lean protein (hard boiled egg, roast beef, turkey, smoked salmon).
Look for products that are portion controlled for you, such as small packets of nuts, applesauce and yogurts. Look for whole grain products with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Look for frozen dessert products with less than 100 calories per serving.
Kid-friendly snacks
Children need snacks. Depending on the age, they just seem to do better with smaller meals spread throughout the day. So, again, think of snacks as mini meals and great opportunities to deliver needed nutrients. Junk foods are often defined as foods that don’t deliver any nutrients, just fat, sugar and calories. So since tiny tummies have room for only so much food, why fill them up with junk foods’ empty calories? Now, there’s nothing wrong with cookies, crackers, chips and even the occasional candy. But choose versions that sneak in needed nutrients such as oatmeal raisin cookies (fiber), whole grain pita chips or other crackers (fiber, and whole grain nutrients). Dipping fruit into chocolate sauce such as strawberries, chunks of pineapple or banana is preferred over chocolate bars. Also, some fast food places offer cut up fruit to go. It’s a treat that delivers vitamins, minerals and phyto nutrients (plant nutrients) that help children’s bodies and minds develop.
Need snacks in the car?
Easy-to-peel-and-eat Clementine oranges are in season right now and the perfect size for kids. How about slightly sweet tasting grape tomatoes (just like fresh grapes, cut these in half for kids under age 3 to prevent choking) or those fresh carrot chips? Offer with lowfat ranch dressing or hummus (chickpea spread) as a super after school snack that serves up many nutrients.
Beverages as snacks
Yes, beverages count! In fact, staying hydrated is vital to support good health for your body and mind. Even if you’re mildly dehydrated you can feel lethargic, irritable and it can diminish mental focus. The best liquid snacks deliver plenty of water whether they’re in the form of plain water, flavored waters, nonfat milk, unsweetened iced tea or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices. But when liquids contain calories, remember the liquid portion of portion control. A glass of fruit juice should be 6 ounces (which counts as a fruit serving) not an 18-ounce tumbler. And of course, that 36-ounce Big Gulp cola can add up to a lot of unneeded excess sugar and calories.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jump Start New Year's Diet Now

Happy New Year!
Well, I'm popping the Champagne early to celebrate
the fact that the Holidays can actually be the best time
to start putting your New Year's Diet Resolutions into
The holidays may not seem like the ideal time to start a diet. After all, isn’t this the season when platters of cookies litter the office and neighbors invite you over for huge holiday buffets? Add to that the family celebrations with your aunt’s triple chocolate fudge and uncle’s rum soaked eggnog and the holidays can be a mine field of fattening foods. But, ask yourself “Is it really any different the rest of the year?” Every season brings its own timely temptations from Super Bowl Sunday’s snacks to Fourth of July fried chicken and ribs. So why not resolve to recognize these waist widening challenges and learn to apply some slimming strategies when the landscape is fat with indulgent food choices. Research shows that the most successful dieters- those who lose weight and keep it off for the long haul- practice healthy eating and exercise habits all year long. They don’t have New Year’s diet resolutions that lapse by January 31st because they don’t make big promises that are impossible to keep. For instance, if you’ve ever vowed on January 1st that “I’ll never eat ice cream again!” or “I’ll never order French fries again!” then you made one of the biggest New Year’s diet mistakes- biting off more than you can chew. Instead, set a time limit or portion limit. “I’ll only eat French fries once a month.” Or “I’ll only eat ice cream in a really small bowl.”
There’s no time like the present to make a fresh start and begin new healthier eating habits- even if you’re headed out to a holiday party tonight! So, hit the reset button to refresh your screen and follow the FRESH start rules to help your hips survive the holidays.

Fresh Start Diet Rules for Surviving the Holidays

F- Freshen up your food life- Keep fresh fruit and other healthy snacks such as whole grain crackers, nuts, and fresh veggies on hand at home. A handful of almonds or walnuts before heading out to a party can calm your appetite so you don’t dive into the buffet the minute you arrive. Stock your pantry with whole grain pastas, brown rice and your fridge with low fat or non fat milk and yogurts.

R- Recognize barriers- OK it’s going to be tough to say ‘No’ to holiday favorites like chocolate fudge and that creamy cheesy hot artichoke dip. Know your splurge foods and resolve to enjoy them in small quantities. Use a small plate to serve yourself. Research shows your mind will think it looks like a lot more food than the same amount on a large plate.

E- Enjoy the taste of eating right – Did you know that the deviled eggs, steamed shrimp, roast beef and chicken on skewers often served at holiday dinner parties are all diet-friendly lean protein choices? Feel free to add low-cal flavor with mustards, horseradish, cocktail sauce and salsas. Remember that some foods are actually allies in the weight loss war. Broth based soups, veggies, fruit and whole grains fill you up with out filling you out.

S- Start new habits- Keep a list of what you’re eating and drinking for a few days. Be as specific as possible on types of foods and amounts. Don’t know what a cup of mashed potatoes looks like? Get some measuring cups out and become familiar with portion sizes. This snap shot will help you keep track of over eating and while you’re at it- write down your physical activity. Did you take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall? That counts, too!

H- Have a plan – Eat breakfast. Schedule time to take a walk or go to that yoga class. If you’re going to a pot-luck bring the salad or vegetable side dish. If Friday involves a big dinner party, eat less on Thursday and walk more on Saturday. If it’s a three hour car ride to Grandma’s pack fresh fruit and a turkey sandwich for the road so you don’t have to stop at a fast food joint. Save the calories to enjoy holiday treats when you get to Grandma’s. Successful long term weight control is a balancing act.

Keep in mind that most people gain about one pound over the holidays. That doesn’t sound like much but if you don’t lose it- after ten years that’s ten pounds. If you maintain your weight this time of year, that’s great! You won’t even need a New Year’s diet resolutions! If you’d like to share your healthy holiday eating tips I’d love to hear them. Please email me at or
visit my blog

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tis the Season for Slimming Cocktails

Tall and slender. Bubbly and bright. Luscious and cool. Ah, the temptations of cocktail hour.

From retro whiskey sours and Kir Royals to trendy pomegranate martinis and green tea infused vodkas, the clever concoctions created by bartenders today offer a fantastic assortment of enticements long before the dinner menu even hits the table. So, the hospitable greeting, “Would you like to start with a drink?” introduces the first challenge to diners with an eye on calorie control when dining out. Got your eye on a shaken and not stirred martini? Here’s how to do the metabolic math on alcohol. The standard 1.5 ounce serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories even before you add any mixers. Whether you're drinking a beer or a Bellini; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories.
For example:
80-proof vodka (40% alcohol; most common) - 64 calories per 1oz
100-proof vodka (50% alcohol)-82 calories/1 oz
And it’s real easy to overdo it with alcohol calories. Here’s why. 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories, compared with only 4 calories for a gram of carbohydrates or protein. There are 9 calories per gram of fat. So, even though you won’t find the number of grams of alcohol per ounce on a wine list, you get the idea that alcohol is a pretty concentrated source of calories.

But Green Tea is Healthy, right?
The restaurant’s bar often isn’t far from the kitchen these days and modern mixologists are borrowing from popular culinary trends. Enter the pomegranate martini. Sure pomegranate juice is super high in antioxidants and research does show that the kind of nutrients it contains can be heart healthy. But, most studies looked at the effects of 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for 45 days- not eight drops in a martini on a Friday night. Same goes for green tea infused vodkas or other concoctions including green tea in the recipe. There’s generally not enough to pack a health promoting punch. Enjoy the flavor. It’s a cocktail not a cure. Well, guess it depends what ails ya!

Dessert in Disguise
From frozen strawberry pina coladas to Key Lime pie martinis served with graham cracker cookie crumbs on the rim-they’re creamy, delicious and loaded with calories. If you must imbibe say hello to your liquid dessert! And goodbye to any other splurge items on the menu tonight. If you want to end the meal with a sweet drink, order a small (1.5 oz) after dinner liqueur like Grand Marnier or Amaretto, over ice and sip slowly for 120 calories.

Bottom’s Up?

400+ Calorie Splurge Club- It’s the fat in the cream that ups calorie counts.
Pina Colada (5oz), Chocolate Martini (5oz), White Russian (5 oz),
Eggnog with rum (8 oz), Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps (8 oz)

300+ Calorie Caution Club – It’s the sugar in the mix that drives up calories.
Mojito (8oz), Margarita (8oz), Whiskey Sour (8oz), Mai Tai (6oz), Cosmopolitan (5 oz)
coffee or chocolate liqueur (4 oz)

200 and under Calorie Slender Sipping Club
Martini (2.5 oz): 160 calories -This is a small martini by restaurant standards!
Port wine (3 oz):128 calories – High alcohol content means high calorie content.
Bloody Mary (5 oz): 118 calories – Good source of vitamin A but watch the sodium.
Red wine (5 oz):120 calories- Higher alcohol reds will have more calories.
White wine (5 oz): 120calories-Sweeter whites will have more calories.
Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or other Méthode Champenoise wine (5oz): 106-120 calories- Is this why French Women Don’t get Fat?
Wine spritzer with sparkling water (5 oz): 100 calories – More hydration, same festive glass!
Spiced cider with rum (8 oz):150 calories- Hot beverages take longer to drink, too.
Vodka, Gin or Rum and tonic (8 oz): 200 calories- Order with diet tonic or club soda and save 100 calories.
Screwdriver (8 oz): 190 calories- Sub half of orange juice with club soda and cut 50 calories.
Mimosa (5 oz): 100 calories – About the same calories as Champagne alone but you get some Vitamin C in your drink.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Videos of Chef's Healthy Thanksgiving Ideas

These links take you to video clips of Chef Fritz Doss, of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta with his Healthy Thanksgiving Menu. Join CBS Better Morning's anchor Tracye Hutchins and I as we learn how to lighten up the big feast.
Healthy Thanksgiving Tips #1
Butternut squash soup and a salad with pumpkin vinaigrette start the meal.

Healthy Thanksgiving Tips #2 Turkey and sweet potatoes with Chef Fritz Doss of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Carolyn finds out how creative chefs cut the fat and calories in popular Thanksgiving dishes while still celebrating the great tastes of the season.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Giving Thanks for Chefs' Menu Inspirations

Whether you’re doing all of the cooking at home, taking a dish to a gathering of family and friends or making restaurant reservations for your Thanksgiving dinner Atlanta area chefs offer some inspiring ideas to add a deliciously healthy twist to menu traditions.
While even this dietitian believes that Thanksgiving is not a day for dieting, it’s certainly smart to up the flavor appeal of holiday favorites with creative recipes that keep the calories down. Hey, if you skip the butter and brown sugar in your sweet potatoes you can have a bigger slice of pumpkin pie!
Celebrate with Seasonal Produce
Their first bit of advice is to remember the first Thanksgiving’s mission to celebrate and give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Executive Chef Christian Messier’s menu at The Sun Dial Restaurant at the Westin Peachtree Plaza is seasonally inspired year round so his Thanksgiving menu gives tribute to locally grown produce, “Salads are often overlooked in the melee of stuffing, braised meats, and roasted birds. It is a good time to take a step back from the norm and use some seasonal lighter fare.” Messier will toss an Apple and Winter Greens salad for guests served with goat cheese rolled in spiced pecans and a white balsamic vinaigrette made with fresh apples and Dijon mustard.
Sweet New Ideas
What Thanksgiving spread would be complete without sweet potatoes? But, this year why not forgo the miniature marshmallows and throttle back on the brown sugar and butter to savor and appreciate the natural sweetness of a roasted sweet potato? Chefs at Seasons 52, who specialize in creating just-as-tasty but lighter, lower calorie dishes are serving roasted sweet potatoes with a cumin lime vinaigrette and glaze roasted winter squash with apple cider. Chef Ron Eyester of Food 101 in Morningside gives whipped sweet potatoes a flavor kick with cinnamon and chipotle chile peppers. Sweet potatoes-one of the everyday darlings of dietitians because they’re rich in fiber and vitamin A- are on Executive Chef Carvel Grant Gould’s menu at Canoe restaurant almost year round. She suggests a departure from the usual roasting and mashing, “I slice them into long julienne strips along with some parsnips and rutabaga turnips prepared the same way. Then they’re sautéed in a non stick pan with some garlic and shallots for about four minutes until their tender but still have some texture. It’s a great accompaniment to turkey or any poultry.”
Exotic flavors from Southeast Asia transform the Thanksgiving menu at Spice Market in the W Hotel Midtown into a taste adventure. Why not shake up a few traditions by sprinkling on some interesting spices? Spice Market’s cranberry sauce is accented with fresh ginger and the pumpkin pie is served with an apple guava sorbet. Nutrition research shows that the more flavor appeal in a meal, the more satisfied we are with less. OK, so translated to Thanksgiving rules- you’ll only have one big helping instead of two!!
Freshening Up Menu Favorites
How would like to be expecting 500 guests for Thanksgiving dinner? Executive chef Fritz Doss of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta is ready for a big crowd with a huge spread from soup to nuts and all the trimmings. But, since he knows that a growing number of his guests give thanks for healthy fare as part of their everyday lifestyle including the holidays, he’s prepared a special menu of lighter takes on Thanksgiving favorites. The meal starts with a butternut squash soup with sage leaves made with chicken stock and only a little half and half. A salad of winter greens, fresh apples, dried cranberries and pecans is served with roasted pumpkin vinaigrette. Doss explains, “I roast the butternut squash for the soup and pumpkin for the salad dressing at a really high temperature to caramelize their natural sugars. It adds so much more flavor.” The turkey is brined with apple cider, maple and bourbon and served with port glazed pearl onions, cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes and organic spinach topped with a little Parmigianino regiano cheese. Of course Doss doesn’t forget dessert, “I’m preparing a lighter dessert of spiced poached pears. You can have it with a scoop of the maple walnut ice cream too if you like!”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Aging Boomers and Lost Muscles

Just when you thought it was fine to relax with a glass of well earned wine and nibble on a few whole grain crackers, nutrition researchers are here to ask, “Did you have enough protein today?”
OK, we know you’re not into body building competitions but get a load of this mid-life reality check. You could be losing muscle mass and strength- a condition called sarcopenia- if you don’t consume enough high quality protein on a daily basis. Susan Hewlings, PhD, RD of Stetson University in Deland says, “We’re seeing sarcopenia, which commonly occurs in the elderly, in younger subjects in their early to mid-fifties.” Hewlings and other researchers presenting at the 2008 American Dietetic Association’s annual Food and Nutrition Conference shed new light on the connection between what we eat and the health of our aging muscles. Bottom line: research shows that to prevent and treat lost muscle mass you must consume 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. That translates to about 90 grams of protein a day for a normal weight man and would be less if you’re a tiny gal.
Don’t Save Up for a Big Steak Dinner
But, here’s where the real specific advice kicks in- you should be including sources of high quality protein such as eggs, milk and meats and balancing your protein intake throughout the day. “Typically people eat less protein at breakfast, a little more at lunch and then eat a lot at dinner. To optimize protein synthesis and prevent sarcopenia it needs to be more evenly distributed.” There goes that diet plan to starve all day and splurge on a big steak for dinner. Your muscles are hungry for amino acids found in protein foods all day long. In fact, Robert Wolfe, Ph D Professor of Geriatrics at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas warns that “When there are periods of the day when no amino acids are being absorbed from the gut, muscle serves as the only significant reservoir of protein.” That means your body starts robbing the muscles of stored protein to keep organs and other tissues humming along. So, make sure you’re eating protein containing foods every day and including protein in each meal. And that includes snacks. Something as simple as fresh apple slices topped with peanut butter is a good choice.
Hewlings emphasized that protein alone can’t do the job of preserving and building muscles as we age, “I call exercise the ‘poor man’s plastic surgery.’ And note that physical activity boosts lean body mass only if you’ve got enough protein in your diet.”
Protein On The Menu
Since foods are often a combination of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) chooses protein containing foods wisely with other health concerns in mind. For instance, a 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak is a great source of complete protein—38 grams worth but contains 44 grams of fat. The same amount of salmon gives you 34 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat- and it’s the kind of fat that’s good for you. For a complete list of protein foods to include in a healthy diet go to

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shop 'Til you Drop- Your Food Costs!

That's me standing in the produce aisle reporting this, "The hottest food trend hitting supermarkets now is how to save a buck!"
Old school tips on bargain shopping - from coupon clipping to reading unit prices-are in vogue with a vengeance. Here are a few smart ways to save on food dollars without sacrificing good nutrition. You've got to stay well nourished to ward off winter's colds and flus! The win-win here is that often the more economical humble heroes - such as beans, rice, canned tomatoes, soups, eggs and milk- are also the most nutritious choices in the supermarket, too.

Ready. Set. Shop ‘til you drop – your food costs!
· Leftovers: Wonder or Wasteful? Wonderful—think double duty meals. Roasted pork loin makes a great dinner one night and leftovers for tasty pork sandwiches or wraps the next. Or to save time, money and the urge to grab something quick at takeout, make a big pot of rice one night and use it the next day to go with a chicken and vegetable stir fry. And while you’re picking up the milk don’t forget the eggs – they’re both economical sources of high-quality protein. And eggs aren’t just for breakfast anymore. Set up an omelet bar for dinner or make a frittata or quiche.
· Comfort Foods: A) High Calories and Costly or B) Healthy and Affordable? B! Think meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, baked lasagna or cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. However, give these wallet-friendly crowd pleasers a contemporary nutrition makeover – serve the meatloaf with brown rice, use whole grain pasta for the mac and cheese, add some chopped broccoli or zucchini and mushrooms to the lasagna and use lowfat or fat free cheese for the sandwiches. Look up your old favorites recipes online to find new healthier twists, which can also save you a few bucks or check out my book “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!”for more of my tips and insights for you and your family.
· True or False: Fancy Vitamin-Enhanced Drinks are Worth the Extra Spend. False. False. False. Don’t be fooled by sports drinks, enhanced water or even vitamin D and calcium fortified orange juice, not one can stack up against the nutritional and economic value of a glass of milk. Milk offers the most bang for a quarter, with a full 8-ounce glass of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein and potassium. Other beverages fall short on nutrients and can cost up to seven times the amount of one serving of milk.
· Are shopping lists a thing of the past? No, don’t forget the good old shopping list! With the price of gas today and of course your precious time, there’s nothing worse than getting home from the store to find you forgot one ingredient for a recipe. Or putting the groceries away and finding you were out of milk. Shopping lists help us plan what we need and avoid impulse purchases, as well. If chocolate covered donuts aren’t on your list then keep that cart moving. To focus your food dollar where it counts nutritionally, it might help to arrange your shopping list by the groups in USDA’s MyPyramid -- fruit, vegetables, grains, meats and milk and milk products. Once you built the foundation with these foods, you can decide if there’s some extra cash still available for snacks or other treats.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ship Shape Cruising

Dateline: Somewhere in the North Atlantic sailing on the Cunard liner QM2 from Southampton to New York.
It really was a trip of a lifetime; well the second trip of a lifetime. I was born in Scotland and when I was six months old I sailed with my mom, Jessie Maclean Robertson O'Neil, on the original Queen Mary from England to New York. Now, 50-uh- something years later I followed the same trans Atlantic itinerary on the QM2. This was a historic voyage for Cunard as well since this trip marked the 100th Atlantic crossing for the QM2. All that and plenty of Champagne, too!
Passengers, it's interesting to note, have always been into fitness when they travelled. Old photos from the Queen Mary boasted a small gymnasium and circa 1950's menus touted the chef's ability to create dishes for special diet requests. On board the QM2 today, fitness is a big focus with a Canyon Ranch Spa and fitness center complete with professional trainers. The menus for every dining room included light and healthy choices and always an array of deliciously unique salads.
Deck 7 was a popular spot. That's where you can run or walk or stroll around the ship on a promenade deck. Three trips around the QM2 and you've completed 1.1 miles. So you can decide how many laps to take based on how many laps you want to do at the breakfast buffet. But, the biggest fitness boost comes from taking the stairs and not the elevator to get around the ship. Up and down, down and up from deck 2 to deck 12- that's a cardio workout.
Yes, you can stay ship shape on your cruise!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Savor Foods with the Slim Set

JCT Kitchen in Atlanta

They’re slim. They’re trim and they love to dine. How do they do it? Well, it turns out that fit folks really are different from their bulge-challenged friends. Sure, there are genetic physiological differences in all of us that predetermine our metabolic rates and the way our bodies store fat. But, it’s the power of mind (read: willpower and motivation) that keeps those skinny people skinny. Dr. John Foreyt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says studies have identified what makes them different, “They are eternally vigilant with daily or weekly weighing, they monitor calorie intake and they’re highly active exercising at least 60 minutes a day.” And according to Dr. Jim Hill’s research from the National Weight Control Registry (a database of more than 5,000 people who've lost more than 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year) their exercise of choice is not marathon running- it’s walking but walking enough to burn 400 calories a day, “The good news is small changes for all of us, things that take very little time and effort, like walking an extra 2,000 steps a day about 15 minutes can burn 100 calories.”
What else does the slim set do to maintain their weight? Here’s a menu of healthy behaviors.

They Eat Until Satisfied Not Stuffed - Try putting your fork down halfway through a meal and ask yourself using a 1 to 10 scale, how full are you? Take a sip of water and think about it some more. Talk to your dining companions. You’ll give yourself time to gauge how hungry you really are and by eating slowly it allows the stomach time to trigger the brain’s sensation of fullness.

They Eat More Fruit and Vegetables - Bet you’re not surprised by this one! According to a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association healthy weight women eat one more serving of fruit and eat more fiber and less fat per day than overweight people. And even though many people associate weight loss with high protein intake, the statistics from the successful dieters in the National Weight Control Registry don’t support the eat-all-the-steak-you-want diet. Their diets were on average 20% protein, 24% fat and 56% carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best source of healthy carbs.

They Have a Plan and Stick to It - 78% of successful dieters in National Weight Control Registry ate breakfast every day. And- sorry to tell you this- they consistently monitor their food intake. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted by Dr. Rena Wing of Brown University, folks who lost weight and kept it off continued to be careful about consumption of lower calorie menu options and moderated their fat intake.

So how does all of this work in the real world? Here’s an example of putting these slim strategies to work at a place you might not think would fit into lifelong fitness. But it does! JCT Kitchen, an Atlanta restaurant famous for “Southern Farmstead Cooking” serves up some of the city’s best fried chicken and baked macaroni and cheese.
But look more closely at Executive Chef Ford Fry’s menu of seasonal fresh and local ingredients and you’ll find plenty of healthy choices. His Sunday Suppers menu offers nine vegetables and the meal starts with a salad of mixed lettuces and vegetables fresh from the Westside Farm Stand. The Meat & 3 suppers are a great way to enjoy a just-right portion of protein surrounded by the vegetables you’re supposed to be eating. I’d get the Roast Chicken with natural jus, collard greens or pole beans and sliced tomatoes drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil. I’d also hope that someone at the table orders the baked macaroni with Benton’s ham and cheddar so I could have a bite!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yummy Terms and Fatty Truths

Menu descriptions of dishes are written to entice diners to say, "That sounds good!"
I can't wait to try the grilled tenderloin of beef with crispy potato-leek cake, caviar and red wine reduction on the menu at Dogwood restaurant in Atlanta. The grilled cobia with summer vegetable cous cous and charred pepper vinaigrette sounds awesome, too.
And since many chefs today — including Shane Touhy of Dogwood - reveal just about every ingredient and cooking method in menu descriptions, it's easier to read between the lines to find the food facts you need to help decode the nutrition content.
In general, red-flag words for dishes high in fat and calories include cream, butter, fried, sauteed and cheese sauce. Green lights for choices lower in fat and calories include grilled, broiled, primavera, salsa and broth.
So, first look at how the dish is prepared. Is it deep-fat fried or charbroiled? Does it come with a butter sauce or a fresh fruit salsa? Is it a broth-based soup or made with heavy cream? OK, these are some of the obvious clues. Now you're ready for some advanced menu sleuthing.
What if the word "fried" is nowhere to be seen? "Crispy" can be a code word for fried. And "silky sauce" a sign that butter is lurking. Even "poached" isn't always the light way to go. Some chefs actually poach seafood in butter or oil, not the usual water-based broths.
That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the occasional tempura-battered fried shrimp or side of creamed spinach. It just means that when you see them on the menu, you know it's time to take pause. You can choose to either limit portions, or limit the number of times you order these higher fat choices.
Even "grilled" or "broiled" aren't always innocent because the chicken or fish can be slathered in oil or butter while it's on the fire. Make sure to request that your item be broiled "dry" or "lightly brushed with oil." The server is your conduit to the kitchen.
While restaurants such as Applebee's offer menu selections from Weight Watchers that are clearly marked with calorie counts, lighter choices are not always highlighted.
Healthy dishes such as gazpacho, poached salmon and pasta primavera have become part of mainstream dining. And you don't have to settle for less fun, because now chefs borrow interesting ingredients from Asian and Mediterranean cuisines to add bold flavors to dishes without adding additional fats. So, thanks to globe-trotting chefs these lighter dishes taste better than ever!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Soup's On.Weight's Off.

This gorgeous gigante white bean soup served with a glass of Spanish Rioja was presented to me at Meson de Candido Restaurant in Segovia, Spain. 200 year old Meson de Candido is famous for their roasted suckling you can guess where this soup gets its flavor! Actually the recipe calls for one pig's ear and one pig's foot along with chorizo sausage and some cured Serrano ham. Soups are the very essence of comfort and flavor and I've always loved them.
Steaming hot vegetable soups to warm you in winter and icy cold fresh gazpachos to cool things down in summer.
Besides being a time honored way of coaxing the flavors from foods, soups are nutrient rich and because of their high liquid content.....soups are coming into focus as an important and tasty tool in weight control. They fill you up without filling you out. Now obviously, a tomato based Manhattan Clam Chowder will have less calories and fat than a cream based New England Clam Chowder but soups in general are important to add satiety to a meal. And we all know how important controlling hunger is when we're trying to eat less to weigh less. Weight management research shows that starting your meal with a bowl of soup will help you eat fewer calories at that meal. Add to that a two hour walking tour of Segovia's magical sights after lunch at Meson de Candido and you've got the perfect recipe for food, fitness and fun.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spice it up!

It turns out that a pinch of this and a dash of that not only boosts flavor in foods it can add a heap of health benefits to recipes, too. Nutrition research supports new reasons to season dishes with commonly used culinary herbs and spices including cinnamon, ginger, oregano, red pepper and yellow curry powder.

Blueberries, pomegranates and other deeply colored fruits may be famous for their high antioxidant content; but it turns out that some spices rank really high, too. One teaspoon of cinnamon has the disease fighting antioxidant power of a full cup of pomegranate juice or half cup of blueberries.

The specific kind of antioxidant compounds found in cinnamon called polyphenols have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and fight inflammation which can increase risk for heart disease and diabetes. Feel even better about the cinnamon sprinkled on your oatmeal? Just don’t use this spicy news to help justify downing one of those huge cinnamon buns at the mall. Controlling total fat and calories in your diet still reigns supreme as the most important rule in good nutrition. With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that spices might come to rescue there, too. Other studies suggest that some seasonings such as cayenne pepper, chili powder and paprika may help curb hunger pangs and boost the metabolism making it a bit easier to stick to a weight control diet.
Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy to sooth stomach upset. Now research focusing on one of its active ingredients called gingerol suggests it may work like anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Is your mouth burning from the wasabi served with sushi? Pick up that piece of fresh ginger on the plate.
Oregano has the highest antioxidant levels of the dried herbs because of its rosmarinic acid content. Used heavily in Mediterranean cuisines oregano has antimicrobial powers that can help fight bacterial growth and may help inhibit the bacteria associated with ulcers.
Red Peppers get their heat from a powerful antioxidant compound called capsaicin. Spicing up your meal may also help increase satiety so you eat less and other studies found red peppers even milder sweet red peppers boost your metabolism so you burn more calories.
Yellow curry powder is a blend of tumeric and other spices. Curcumin, the bright yellow pigment in tumeric helps fight heart disease and may boost brain health, possibly protecting against Alzheimer’s disease.

More Spice, Less Fat, Sugar and Salt.
Of course one of the best ways that spices can contribute to the enjoyment of a healthy diet is by taking the place of other seasonings that are high in fat, sugar or salt. Herbs and spices are classified as calorie free and salt free. At Spice Market restaurant in midtown Atlanta, executive chef Ian Winslade dips into a world of exciting and healthy spices used in the cooking of Southeast Asia to create dishes such as Steamed Red Snapper with Ginger, Scallion and Tarragon or Grilled Strip Steak with Garlic, Coriander and Sesame. Since each spice offers its own individual health benefits it’s a bonus to find so many used in Spice Market recipes and in the capable hands of Windslade they blend beautifully, “The dishes themselves are quite complex, using a multitude of ingredients in preparation. But when you taste the food, the nuances of all the different ingredients linger on the palate, creating a lot of memorable food.”

So the coriander in Southeast Asian foods, oregano in Greek dishes, cinnamon in the recipes of Morocco and tumeric in the curries of India and Thailand not only enhance the fragrance and flavor of foods, these seasonings are playing a small and potentially important role in the overall nutrition of your meals.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

5 Fattest Ways to Eat

Illustration by Laura Coyle from The Dish on Cheating, Chapter 6 of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!!

Five Fattest Ways to Eat: Maybe it's not what you're eating, but HOW you're eating!!

1. Mindless Munching: You can lose track of how many you gobbled when you eat directly out of a bag of chips or package of cookies. Same goes with nuts. Sure, they’re full of heart healthy fats but enjoy a handful not a can full. When dining out at a Mexican place count out three or four tortilla chips and place on your side plate for better chip control. Use the same tactic with the restaurant bread basket. And if your favorite restaurant is famous for serving huge portions ask for half of your meal to be placed in a take out container before it comes to the table. You won’t be tempted to eat the whole thing and you’ll have lunch for tomorrow.

2. Over Accessorizing: Whether it’s a salad or a steak dinner often times it’s the add-ons that pile on the pounds not the foundation. Watch the little extras that can add up to big calories blown on garnishes that you could easily skip. Limit the fried croutons, bacon bits, blue cheese crumbles and creamy dressing on salads. Enjoy a small steak without the gravy boat filled with Béarnaise sauce or onion rings on the side.

3. Super-sizing Snacks: Snacking between meals can be a healthy habit if you're consuming them in snack sized portions. Enjoying a cup of creamy cold lemon gelato during an afternoon stroll is OK. Wolfing down a giant triple scoop bowl of ice cream with chocolate and chunks of candy on top is not. Same goes for chips, cookies and crackers as snacks. Choose the 100 calorie packs to keep track and savor them slowly.

4. Gonzo Guzzling: Don't forget the liquid portion of portion control. Maybe what's making you gain weight is not on your plate. It could be what’s in your car cup holder. Watch intake of sodas, presweetened teas, fruit flavored beverages and remember that alcoholic beverages pack a caloric wallop too.

5. Silly Splurging: Be smart about eating splurge foods you crave whether it’s chocolate brownies, French fries or lasagna. Realize you love these foods and allow yourself to enjoy them in sensible portions. Feel the textures and smell the aromas to help you feel more satisfied with a smaller portion. That’s what the women in the Rhode Island University study did that helped them to feel more satisfied with fewer calories.

Friday, August 1, 2008

What color do you crave?

Add beauty to your plate with the many colors found in fruits in vegetables. The pigments are an indication of the kind of nutrients that lie within.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Wheat Doesn't Mean Whole Wheat

Carolyn reveals the whole truth about whole grains when you’re shopping for breads, cereals and pastas. Why whole grains are healthier and how to spot foods that “pretend” to be whole grain.

Write Way to Diet

Waiter: “May I take your order please?”
Dieting Diner: “Yes, thank you, and if you don’t mind after you’re finished writing it all down can you make me a copy? I’m keeping a food diary.”

This hypothetical restaurant request may sound a bit far fetched, but it turns out that the simple act of writing down what you eat every day may be more powerful than a kick boxing class when it comes to weight loss success. In fact, a study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research found that keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss and the longer food and physical activity records are kept the more weight you’ll lose. Results of the study involving nearly 1700 overweight men and women, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, found that – even though everyone was on the same diet and exercise regimen- those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. Researchers say the process of seriously reflecting on what you eat and how much helps dieters become more aware of habits and face the facts. It also puts the brakes on mindless munching such as grabbing an extra handful of chips or snacking on chunks of a broken cookie when food diaries demand an honest record of every bite.
The Pen is Mightier than the Scale
This new study adds more weight, if you will, to the advice dietitians have given dieters for years that one of the best ways to identify your cravings and eating triggers is to keep a food journal. The best ones are a running record of not only what you eat each day, but what happened and how you felt before and after eating. Journaling is considered one of the most powerful tools for changing behavior, from anger management to weight management. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll uncover about your own hidden food triggers and the in between meal baby bites that add up over time to tip the scale. No need to let it be an open book. It’s nobody’s business, but yours. This is between you and your diary. Continue after you’ve started making healthful changes in your eating habits and marvel at the progress you’ve made. Don’t let it become an obsession. Just know that once you stop journaling, it’s not a bad idea to pick it up again, occasionally, for a spot check to see how you’re still doing. “Dear Diary…can’t wait to tell you what I had for dinner last night!! The 6 ounce serving of grilled salmon lightly brushed with olive oil and lovingly doused with fresh lemon juice was served with 8 perfectly steamed asparagus spears and a cup of nutty brown rice. Yes, there was a healthy scoop of freshly churned summer peach gelato for dessert….but I split it with you-know-who!!!!”

Dining Out with Your Food Diary
Check out menu offerings on the restaurant’s website ahead of time. Some provide nutrition information and many include exact ounces of serving sizes. Print out the menu and you make your notes on this paper at the restaurant.
Ask the server to quantify portion sizes. Is the pasta a two cup serving? Restaurants know their serving sizes, because that’s an important part of controlling food costs.
Don’t believe everything you read. If the menu says “8 ounce sirloin steak” note that could be the raw weight. The cooked weight would be about two ounces less.
Watch those extras. Don’t forget to write down the nuts nibbled at the bar while you waited for your table. Or how much olive oil you used for dipping your bread into at an Italian restaurant. Add 120 calories for each tablespoon of olive oil.
Give yourself credit for good behavior such as ordering salad dressing or sauce on the side. It will be easier to estimate how much you used when you apply it yourself.
Don’t have paper and pen? Left your journal in the car? Use your cell phone to text or email yourself and add it to your food diary later.
This just in. Now you can call yourself with all the dining details and it will be emailed to you via voice transcription. It’s a free service provided by Once you’re signed up you can call 866-JOTT123 and leave yourself a voicemail message such as this, “Rushing back from lunch meeting with client from LA. Had the California Cobb Salad with balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Didn’t eat the blue cheese or the bacon. Had a small chocolate chip cookie and coffee with one sugar. Don’t forget to drink two glasses of water this afternoon at your desk!” Five minutes later, the transcribed, typed message appears in your e-mail in-box. Cut, paste and add to food diary. Done!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Age June Cleaver

Where is June Cleaver when you need her? With food prices going up and penny pinching on the

rise there's a renewed retro-modern interest in good old fashioned Home Ec advice to stretch

the food dollar and still whip up family pleasing meals. As a registered dietitian who earned a

degree in Foods & Nutrition at Florida State University's School of Home Economics ( now called

the College of Human Sciences) I think it's time we tapped into some of the time tested truths

from the experts on food, clothing, shelter and family finance. But, how can you cut corners

on your grocery bill without sacrificing good health? In this video clip from CBS 46 Atlanta

I share a few tips with reporter Tracye Hutchins.

Monday, June 16, 2008

CBS Better Mornings DietTips

Now you can literally watch what you eat! Each week I share a video segment full of diet tips on a different nutrition topics for Atlanta CBS-46's Better Mornings with corresponent Tracye Hutchins.

Think about Your Drink reveals how it may be the liquid portion of portion control that's tipping the scales in the wrong direction for some folks. In fact, a recent survey found that up to 22% of daily calories are coming from beverages, not what's on your plate.

Or maybe you'd like Beat the Bloat! Beverages play a role here too, but in a good way. Did you know that drinking MORE water and "watery" foods can help you prevent water retention??

Stay tuned for more topics.........

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Summer Food Shockers

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ......bumm..bumm..bumm..bumm....bumm.... bumm....

Look out for seemingly "light" summer menu choices that can take an ugly bite out of your bikini sized summer diet calorie budget!! From fresh fruit smoothies serving more fat than fiber and grilled corn on the cob slathered with melted butter... there are many ways that excess calories can sneak into your diet even when you're trying to eat "lighter".

Jamba Juice Chunky Strawberry Smoothie PER SERVING (12 oz.): 450 calories, 14g fat.

Krispy Kreme Oranges & Kreme ChillerPER SERVING (12 oz.): 630 calories, 28g fat.

Corn on the Cob: Every tablespoon of butter slathered on adds 100 calories. Instead crunch into freshly picked sweet summer corn that's been steamed; you won't miss the butter.

Salads aren't safe from stealth calories, either. Some are so heavily doused in dressings, cheese, croutons and other high fat/calorie might as well have ordered the hamburger! and the fries!!

And avoid drowning in these calorie laden summer drinks:

Daiquiri: With four ounces of mix and one ounce of liquor, a daiquiri weighs in at 305 calories -- almost all sugar. And these "umbrella drinks" are often served in very large quantities (12 to 16 ounces) so can be as high as 800 calories.

Long Island Iced Tea: Using TGIFriday's mixer and a 12-ounce serving adds 520 calories to your daily intake.

Pina Colada: A five-ounce glass nets 245 calories. Supersize it to 10 ounces and it's 490 calories.

Instead...quench your pool side thirst with these lighter liquid choices:

Mimosa (one part champagne and one part orange juice): At 130 calories, this traditional morning libation won't wreak havoc on your waistline. And you'll get 100 percent of your vitamin C requirement from the orange juice.

Wine Spritzer: With three ounces of wine and three ounces of club soda, wine spritzers top out at about 60 calories.

Sangria: The combination of wine, fruit juice, club soda and fresh fruit makes for a low-cal, refreshing drink, about 80 calories.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sex and the City of Diet Books!

From the martinis to the Manolo's...the girls are back and I was thrilled

to attend a preview screening of the new Sex and The City movie this

week. Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte fans showed up at the

invite only screening to walk the pink carpet as photogs flashed and

TV cameras followed their stilletto steps into the theater. If you

haven't seen the flick, I don't want to spoil it...but I can tell you that you

will not be disappointed by the walk-in closet Big has built for Carrie!

All this Sex talk reminds me that many of The Dish reviews

compared our appeal and approach to the writing style of a certain

writer in that hit HBO series.

Here's what one native New York gal thought of The Dish on Eating Healthy and

Being Fabulous! (Atria Books):

If Carrie Bradshaw wrote a book on how to eat well and still fit into her fabulous outfits, this would be it. It's whimsical, but underlying it all is the serious topic of getting us to eat healthy without becoming obnoxious food cops. I love living in this city, and running into Carolyn (and her co-author Densie Webb and all her other friends) is one of the reasons why.
To order your very own DISH...visit

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Anti Aging On The Menu

Restaurant designers know that choosing corals and pinks for dining room décor and subtle indirect lighting is flattering to guests who not only want their food to look good, they want to look fabulous, too. No one likes squinting into the glare of bright lights that scream “Where were you on the night of……?” emphasizing every wrinkle from crow’s feet to laugh lines. Choosing where to eat based on how young and attractive we feel is a vote for better atmosphere, an important part of enjoying the dining out experience. What the chef’s cooking up in the kitchen can keep you looking younger, too. So while you’re feeling sleek in the sexy interiors of Maxim Prime Steakhouse at the Glenn Hotel, you can nibble on Chef Daniel Zoby’s salad of organic greens accessorized with dried cherries and cashews followed by grilled wild salmon and asparagus to add some youth enhancing nutrients to the night.
Stop the Clock Cooking
Contemporary nutrition research not only identifies foods that can keep us slim and healthy, scientists have pinpointed nutrients associated with anti-aging benefits. These vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants fight Father Time by warding off the production of cell damaging free radicals that not only age the skin they contribute to memory loss and increased risk of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.
The star players in the anti-aging game are fruits and vegetables because they’re excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and hundreds of other antioxidant compounds. Dairy products (preferably non fat) from a glass of milk or a container of yogurt are youth-enhancing too because they support long term bone health. Healthy fats play a role as well in keeping cells healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, flaxseed and walnuts and the mono-unsaturated oils found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados and nut butters are heart healthy and help keep skin moisturized from the inside out. Both mono-unsaturated fats and vitamin C work together to build and repair elastin and collagen in the skin. Registered dietitian, Cheryl Forberg, author of Positively Ageless (Rodale 2008) says, “We’re finding that some foods that seem quite ordinary have extraordinary health benefits.” She suggests adding a cup of tea-black or green- hot or iced to your dining out habits for even more antioxidant bang, “Tea, dark chocolate, red wine and dried fruits especially prunes are concentrated sources of potent antioxidants called flavonoids believed to fight against age-related mental decline and the inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.”
So, the Fountain of Youth really can be found if you know where to look on the menu.

Skin Friendly Food Tips
· Avoid excess alcohol and caffeine which can dry and dehydrate your skin, robbing the cells of needed water, and causing fine lines to be more visible.
· Beauty on the half shell. Oysters are a great source of the mineral zinc which is involved in wound healing and the formation of new collagen. Rather have sushi? The mineral selenium found in tuna and crab may help delay aging by reducing sun damage and protecting skin’s elasticity.
· Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen, which is a spongy network of fibers that keeps skin plump and wrinkle-free. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, strawberries and kiwi fruit.
· If you’re a fan of dining al fresco at outdoor cafes and sunny terraces don’t forget your sunscreen. Dermatologists remind us you don’t have to be at the beach to suffer sun damage.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Midnight Snack Attacks

Hmmmm. What looks good? Now, you may have been warned against indulging your end of the day hunger pangs and rightfully so, if those after-hours calories put you over the top of your daily caloric budget. But, when those midnight munchies strike, you often can't help yourself. So here are some suggestions for midnight snacks which can actually be good for you.

Maybe You’re Just Thirsty
Before you raid the fridge make sure that hunger is really what's fueling your mania to munch. Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. So, try drinking at least two cups of water before diving into a mid-night snack. Afterwards, you may be able to return to bed completely satisfied without eating a thing.

Late Night Sweet Tooth
If the light of the moon sends you searching for all-things-sweet, beware of ice cream and chocolate brownie cake temptations. In fact, just say “No” to chocolate because it contains caffeine which can disrupt sleep when you finally do get to bed. And the high fat content in desserts such as premium ice creams can cause indigestion when you go horizontal. So, opt for non fat yogurts if you want something cool and creamy. Or tame your bedtime sugar craving with dried fruit such as a few naturally sweet prunes which contain fiber, potassium and magnesium- a combination of nutrients that will gently aid your digestive health overnight.

Nutty Nights
Sometimes all you need is a small snack to get your through the night. And a handful of crunchy roasted nuts such as almonds offer some big nutrition rewards. This nutty snack is full of magnesium and B vitamins, both which help promote serotonin production in the brain to relax the body and mind. Not only will you cut stress, but you won't stress over the calories. Twenty-two whole almonds only equals about 100 calories.

Milk It
Whether you want to quench your thirst or need something to wash down a midnight cookie snack (choose oatmeal not chocolate chip) a simple glass of non-fat milk is not only nostalgic at bedtime it’s nutritious.
A glass of milk can help you sleep better because of the calcium content -- which relaxes muscles -- and increases the amount of tryptophan in the blood, which helps promote sleepiness. Avoid chocolate milk which contains some caffeine.

Midnight Mistakes
Certain foods are really bad choices late at night. And it’s not just the excess calories. Anything high in sugar and caffeine can keep you awake when you finally do want to sleep. And while that after-hours Chinese place sounds like fun; this is not the time for deep fried or stir fried entrees or any other high fat splurges like big burgers or double cheese pizzas. They may meet your need for midnight munchies but can cause some serious late night indigestion. Super spicy foods can cause the problem, too. If you really are hungry, have a turkey (contains tryptophan) sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of non-fat milk. You’ll satisfy your stomach rumblings, get a good night’s sleep and improve your chances at being gung-ho about taking that good for you walk in the morning.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Shrimp and a Sea of Misunderstanding

Sea the Light

If you've been avoiding shrimp because you heard that these crustaceans are high in cholesterol, you're wrong and right. Shrimp do contain relatively high levels of dietary cholesterol - 166 milligrams of cholesterol per three ounces of steamed shrimp. But, they are very low in saturated fat, the kind of fat that raises blood cholesterol. It turns out that the cholesterol we eat has less of an affect on our blood cholesterol than saturated fats. So the net-net, as you cast your net to find heart healthy seafood, is that shrimp's nutritional profile places it on the list of the dietary good guys. Researchers at The Rockefeller University found that when volunteers ate shrimp along with foods that were low in saturated fat, their blood lipid ratios remained balanced. The same goes for shrimp's crustacean cousins lobster and crab.

Pass the Lemons Please

The healthiest way to enjoy shrimp is simply steamed. Add a spritz of fresh lemon or lime juice or a splash of hot sauce and you'll keep the calories low-84 calories per three ounce serving of shrimp.

Of course, if you drench them in melted butter or drown them in cheese sauce you're changing the nutritional picture by increasing the calories and the artery-clogging saturated fat content of the dish. Fried shrimp are higher in fat and calories too. In fact, you can add 100 calories per ounce when you plunge your shrimp into the deep fryer. If the fat in the fryer contains trans-fats ( the Darth Vadar of the nutritional world) you're adding an even higher risk of elevated blood cholesterol levels. If you must fry, seek out trans-fat free oils.
Other nutritional notes: Shrimp are almost fat free, high in protein, an excellent source the mineral selenium and vitamin B12 and a good source of iron. Nutritional Scorecard (3 ounces steamed shrimp): 84 calories, 0.9 g total fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 166 mg cholesterol, 17.8 g protein.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Penny and Pound Wise

What's a diet and health conscious penny pincher to do? With the a gallon of gas hovering around $4.oo; is there room in the budget for a pricey pomegranate smoothie or an organically grown heirloom tomato salad? If the downturn in the economy is taking a bite out of your food dollar- here are some tips from dietitian Alice Henneman, Extension Educator University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County - to help keep restaurant dining from becoming endangered.
Divide & Conquer
Whenever possible, make it a practice to divide a large portion at a restaurant in half BEFORE you start eating. You'll halve BOTH the calories and the cost of your meal!
Think "planned-overs" rather than "left-overs." Some people even make it a practice to ask for a "doggie bag" at the beginning rather than end of the meal. They remove half their food immediately so it's out-of-sight and remains out of their mouth!
NOTE: To handle take-home food safely, TWO hours from the time of serving is the maximum time perishable foods should be at room temperature, ONE hour if it's 90 degrees F or above. For best quality and safety, eat take-home foods in a day or two or freeze them for longer storage.
Penny-Wise AND Pound-Wise
When it comes to restaurant portion sizes, you can be penny-wise AND pound-wise. If you have a choice, order smaller servings sizes of foods such as burgers, fries, drinks, salads, soups and so on. They’re lower in calories and cost.
“Dine” during the Day
Some restaurants offer some of the same foods at noon as during the evening, only in smaller portion sizes and for less money. Want to eat at that fancy restaurant? Check their noontime menu!
If you love the illustrations on this blog you must know that they are the talented work

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What's in your fridge? I mean, on?

Sure there's plenty of food to watch on TV, but now you can watch TV where you reach for food....the refrigerator door!!! Thoughts???? Well, what I really need is a fridge with a full length mirror on the doors so I can take pause and reflect on my health and beauty goals before I enter the snack zone.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Caviar for Dessert?

Look closely now. These two enthusiastic food lovers are NOT dipping into a tin of beluga, sevruga or ossetra caviar. In fact, there's nothing fishy going on here at all.

It's dessert in the kitchen at the Chef's Table of Au Pied De Cochon restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Atlanta.

Chef Juan Carlos Buitron painstakingly created tiny "pearls" of fresh fruit flavored gelatin to mimic the tiny eggs so prized by caviar connoisseurs. In the foreground the brilliant yellow beads are made from mango and using mother of pearl tasting spoons the two women are getting ready to sample blackberry "caviar." What fun to play with your food and celebrate the intense flavors of fresh seasonal fruit? C'est formidable!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Decoding Menu Speak

Reading restaurant menus to seek out dishes that meet your cravings and your curves isn't always easy.
Red flag words for dishes high in fat and calories include cream, butter, fried, sautéed and cheese sauce. Green lights for choices lower in fat and calories include grilled, broiled, primavera, salsa and broth. So, first look at how the dish is prepared. Is it deep fat fried or char-broiled? Does it come with a butter sauce or a fresh fruit salsa? Is it a broth based soup or made with heavy cream? Ok, these are some of the obvious clues. Now you’re ready for some advanced menu sleuthing.

What if the word “fried” is no where to be seen? “Crispy” can be a code word for fried. And “Silky sauce” a sign that butter is lurking. Even “poached” isn’t always the light way to go? Some chefs actually poach seafood in butter or oil, not the usual water based-broths. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional tempura battered fried shrimp or side of creamed spinach. It just means that when you see them on the menu, you know it’s time to take pause. You can choose to either limit portions, or limit the number of times you order these higher fat choices.
Even “grilled” or “broiled” aren’t always innocent because the chicken or fish can be slathered in oil or butter while it’s on the fire. Make sure to request that your item be broiled “dry” or “lightly brushed with oil.” The server is your conduit to the kitchen.

Fat by any other name….
Aioli--translation: mayonnaise with garlic
Au Gratin- topped with cheese, butter and breadcrumb mixture
Beurre--butter’s French name
Bisque-most often a cream based soup
Béarnaise--watch the “-aise,” which indicates egg based mayonnaise
Crispy-code word for fried!
Crusted or Encrusted--coated with nuts, bread crumbs or potato, pan fried until crispy
Frito Misto—fried pieces
Pan Fried-may as well be deep fat fried

Leaning toward leaner….

Au Jus--pan juices often reduced with no fat added
Braise--slow cooked to tenderize meats or fish, often little added fat
Broth-fragrant water based sauce with infused flavors ie. chicken & lemongrass broth
Coulis--all hail the coulis, often a no-fat-added puree of vegetables or fruit
Flame seared--grilled over open fire, fats can drain off
Primavera – Italian for “spring”; indicates vegetables are major ingredient
Provencale- South-of-France style sauce with tomato and other vegetables
Relish- savory mix of fruits and or vegetables
Salsa- the classic is with fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro and chiles, but can be made with fruit and even black beans, too.

Ask Questions If It Says:

Grilled--watch out for butter or oil slathered on during grilling
Roasted--watch out for extra fat used in roasting, ie.butter basted on roasted chicken
Poached--not always in water, watch out for poached in oil or butter
Sautéed -- butter or oil are used, chefs can limit amount if asked
Steamed- watch out for butter or oil added after the steaming

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Icelandic Food & Fun

People are pretty cool in Iceland. On a recent trip to Reykjavik for the annual Food & Fun Festival I was introduced to the culinary side of this island nation which lies half way between the US and Northern Europe. Chefs from the US and Europe and of course from Iceland competed for top prizes in cooking competitions and created wonderful dinners at restaurants around town. My first dinner experience was at Vox, an elegant contemporay styled restaurant in the Nordica Hilton Hotel. Salmon with green apples, lime aioli and salmon roe was followed by a course of poached halibut in dashi with grilled ginger cake. Duck breast with eggplant and garlic miso sauce was next and then onto a dessert of lychee pannacotta with pears. Certainly, the Vikings didn't dine this way even if they were catching salmon and halibut!
Ever since reading "Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne I always wanted to visit Iceland. Today stories about Iceland center around its status as the world's most desirable country to live in as ranked by the United Nations human development index which blends figures for life expectancy, educational levels and real per capita income. Norway held the top spot for the past six years.
A lesson in fitness I learned while visiting Iceland is that you shouldn't let the weather get in the way of your outdoor pursuits. Even though it was mid-February with temperatures in the 30's people were jogging, riding bikes, and pushing baby carriages through the quaint streets of town. A taxi driver told me one day, "We live in a country where the weather often hates us and can be pretty harsh. So we cope by using our imagination and refusing to give in." Out door art abounds with colorful building exteriors and clothing is designed to laugh at the weather with its brilliant hues and cozy layers. Iceland even boasts its own line of warm and stylish fleece clothing called 66 Degrees North, referring to the city capital's geographic lattitude. And here is what surprised me the most.
Even though I felt as if I was transported to a world far far away, the flight on Icelandair to Reykkjavik was only four and a half hours from Boston. "We're truly the center of the world, well at least the North Atlantic" boasted Siggy Hall, Iceland's noted top chef and self proclaimed cheerleader for tourism. He added, "Iceland is easy! We speak English, we love food and fun and there's so much to do here whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall." In fact, Iceland's landscape is green in the summer. It's Greenland that that remains icy.

It's a land of geothermal power, salmon filled rivers, outdoor and indoor hot springs for soaking, plenty of local fish and lamb on the menu and clean Nordic designs in decor and fashions. One of the foods you can't escape and end up craving is Skyr, a rich and creamy yogurt made from skimmed milk. Skry, now sold in the US most notably at some Whole Foods, has been a staple of the Icelandic diet for centuries. They even make a "skyr-onaisse" spread for fish sandwiches and feature skyr in recipes from breakfast to dessert. The photo above left is a snap shot of DC food journalist Amanda McClements sampling one of the taste offerings at a "Food Installation" created by a Norwegian caterer who specializes in contemporary display art. The clear plexiglass sheet with holes to support those little Asian soup spoons was a real eye catcher. The spoons were filled with a citrus granita. Eye catching conversation starting party idea! The photo on the right captures a more traditional food find. This was my lunch the last day of the trip. Lobster bisque with bread and a Viking Beer. Outside the snow was piled high and the sun shown brightly in the clear blue Reykjavik sky.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Keys to Healthy Vacation

Remember when beach vacations were for eating too much, drinking too much, partying until dawn and lying in the hot sun doing nothing? Well, it turns out that many people today are using their vacation time to do just the opposite. With precious days away from a hectic work schedule that robs personal time to attend to health goals, the vacation is emerging as an opportune time to focus on fitness.
Registered dietitian, Donna Shields, MS RD has noticed this emerging health trend in her conversations with locals and visitors in Key West, Florida where she is a self professed “southernmost nutritionist” and “diet coach to the beach bums.” Shields, who is a slim and trim fifty-something brunette, was attracted to the casual beach life in the Florida Keys but as a certified personal trainer and former nutrition instructor for the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY she remains serious about promoting diet and fitness. Author of the Caribbean Light cookbook, she’s also well qualified to help clients slim down a pina colada or add a tropical flavor flare to grilled fish. So in today’s column I go to the Keys to learn about the keys to a healthy vacation from fellow dietitian Donna Shields. (
Carolyn: Vacations used to mean going for it and eating everything in sight and dropping out of everything including our fitness goals, but today it seems that busy folks want to use their extra time on vacation to take care of themselves.
Donna: Leave the car keys in the hotel room and start walking everywhere. This is oh-so simple in a small town, like Key West, where it’s flat and accessible, but even if you’re in a more remote resort location and need to cab places, you can still make it work. Have the taxi leave and pick you up at the opposite end of town and walk to your destination, especially if it’s for dinner. If you want to lounge by the pool, promise yourself that the next day you’ll do something more active, like kayak. Even fishing can be strenuous if you’re going after big tarpon or sailfish. On a more realistic note, check out where the locals go for exercise classes. Find out from the concierge where the neighborhood yoga or dance studio is located. It’s a good way to mix n’ mingle with non-tourists and get the skinny on the town. And don’t forget about yoga classes on the beach. Bet you can’t do that at home!
Carolyn: In the Keys it seems everyone rides a bike instead of renting a car. What can bike riding do for you?
Donna: Biking in Key West is what I would call “functional” exercise. We don’t really think of it as exercise but simply a way to get from one place to another. It’s practical, quick, very green and there’s no hassle or cost of parking. It’s great for the quadriceps muscles which don’t get much use if you’re used to sitting at a desk all week. Though we ride conch cruisers (fat tires and one speed) compared to racing bikes, the town is completely flat (highest point is 13 ft above sea level) so it’s easy even if you haven’t been on a two-wheeler for twenty years. It’s the ideal way to check out the little lanes and dead-end streets that no unnoticed when whizzing by in a car, and you can work on your tan with absolutely no effort as you cruise around town.
Carolyn: Tropical vacations seem to bring to mind fresh fish and fresh fruit....but, of course there's plenty of French fries and beer. What kinds of foods do you recommend people focus on during vacation?
Donna: Why go to a tropical island to eat and drink the same stuff you can get in any chain restaurant back home. Order the local seafood. In our case, it’s often Key West Pinks (shrimp), dolphin (often also called mahi-mahi), grouper and our name-sake conch. Order it blackened, grilled, pan sautéed or anything but fried. Conch seviche will have little if any added fat as it’s a very fresh preparation of lime juice, onion, usually some Habanero peppers. The acid of the lime juice actually cooks and helps tenderize the conch muscle. Mango and other tropical fruit salsas can be a healthy accompaniment to an entrée or as a sandwich topping; lots of fresh flavor, few calories and a nutritious choice. And when you do want that over-the-top-dish, share it with your traveling companion, add an appetizer or two and you’re set. Very often fish sandwiches are way too big for one person and also lend themselves to sharing.
Carolyn: OK...I'm at the pool at the historic Casa Marina Resort and the waiter comes by with a tray of cocktails which one should I get? Mimosa, Pina Colada, Mojito, or the strawberry daiquiri?
Donna: The Mimosa is probably the best bet. The orange juice at least provides some vitamin C. And the Mojito would also be a good choice, although it will contain some simple syrup or sugar, most of this rum beverage is club soda which is calorie free. Frozen blended drinks such as Key West’s famous margaritas are usually loaded with sugar, made from presweetened mixes. Pina coladas are a double whammy in that they also can be fairly high in fat due to the cream of coconut.

Carolyn: What are the health benefits of walking on the beach and just relaxing?
Donna: Feeling healthy can take different forms for different people and while having fun on vacation is important, doing something nice for yourself can also make you feel better. If you never, ever get a chance to read a book, then lying in a hammock, swinging under a palm tree, with a good read might just be the thing you need to do. Getting a massage on the beach or sharing a bottle of wine (with plastic cups) to watch the sunset on the pier could be the highlight of your trip. It’s the little, unexpected, unannounced moments that make a vacation healthy for body, mind and spirit.


Lady of the Refrigerator

The Fridge Fairy speaks. One of the most
interesting ways I present information on nutrition is on Alton Brown's Food Network
series, Good Eats. I am cast as "Lady of the Refrigerator" and when Alton opens
his fridge I appear amidst a cloud of frosty mist to impart diet and nutrition wisdoms on the show's topic. I scold him for not knowing the nutrient content of olives or okra. Like Lady of the Lake in King Arthur's time, I waft in and out of scenes disappearing back into the misty realm in the back of the refrigerator. What I hadn't counted on was actually being recognized out in public as Fridge Fairy, as my character is
now nicknamed. Just yesterday at the supermarket a
man stopped me and said "You're Carolyn O'Neil and I saw you last night on the Food Network
in the Good Eats episode "Okra-phobia!" Later in the day I was at the High Museum Wine Auction and while sampling the latest release of Iron Horse brut with winemaker and friend Joy Sterling it happened again. "You're the lady of the refrigerator!" another Good Eats fan announced. I just want to know how they recognize me when I'm not wearing my ice blue prom dress and tiara!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Did you say Dish on Dieting?

"The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!" is the book I've written with co-author Densie Webb, Phd RD.
Densie lives in Austin and I live in Atlanta and we successfully completed writing this diet and nutrition book via emails, faxes and only a few in person meetings. The best meeting of course was when we took our idea to New York City to present our proposal to potential editors with the expert help of our literary agent, Jenny Bent. The publisher who loved us most and we loved them too...was Atria Books, part of Simon & Schuster.
Here's a taste of The Dish.
Welcome to The Dish, where a new diet aptitude meets a stylish lifestyle attitude!
Serving up heaping helpings of nutrition know-how designed to fit your schedule and your sense of taste, THE DISH is here to show women of all ages they can have their chocolate torte and eat it too!

Forget starve-yourself regimens and nutrition gimmicks that just don’t work, and say good bye to those boring food enforcers who don’t understand what you need. Instead join Carolyn O’Neil and Densie Webb as they invite you to wine and dine, entertain and travel, cook delicious meals and enjoy the many ways to move your body and feel fabulous. As registered dietitians, they know their stuff, but they prefer to be called the “Dish Divas” and they’re here to put the fun back into eating right and feeling great.

In these pages they dish out diet advice on how to achieve three principal goals: to fit healthy eating into a hectic life; to make healthy eating stylish and to be healthy by eating more, not less (yes, it can be done!). There are no food police on patrol here, just some heartfelt real-life advice from two nutrition experts, who talk you through food challenges and choices with a style of wit and wisdom that will keep you turning the pages for more.

Want The Dish on how to make the best choices when you eat out? It’s all here, from four star tables to fast food lane. What about a bit of the bubbly? The Dish Divas offer the lowdown on the liquid portion of portion control. Need to get your rear in gear? From walking the pounds off to karate kicks, they’ll help you find the physical activities that appeal to you. They’ve even dished up plenty of fresh advice on beauty and fashion to help you streamline your look and your life.

To show you how to maximize flavor and flare in your food, they dish up easy-to-cook recipes, tips and techniques from top chefs, dubbed Gourmet Gurus. Ever wonder how chic and fit women stay that way and still live the high life? To answer the oft asked “How does she do it?” Carolyn and Densie gather the weight control secrets that work for their Hip & Healthy Heroines. So, learn from the best and see what works for you.

The Dish is a marvelous mix of nutrition advice, culinary wisdom and chic insight, here just in the nick of time to help you feel great, look great and create your own hip and healthy lifestyle.

To order your copy of The Dish On Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!
You're Fabulous!!!

The Boy Who Stole Salad and other Nutrition Lessons en Provence

A day spent meandering up and down the charming little streets of Aix-en-Provence with its tiny shops filled with fragrant strawberries and fresh baguettes and shoe stores with espadrilles in every window was one of my favorite “shore leaves” on a twelve day Crystal Cruise vacation.
Docking in the busy port of Marseilles, I knew I wanted to jump in a taxi and head to Aix as soon as possible with visions of Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and eight years of schoolroom French buried somewhere in my brain. I shared the day trip with three friends, none of whom spoke any French so I was the master communicator with our friendly non-English speaking driver. Thirty minutes later he deposited us in the center of town in front of the Tourist Office; perfect for picking up a local map and immediately soaking in the charm of the bustling boulevards dotted with fountains and lined with side walk cafés. The driver asked how long we’d like to stay before he came to collect us and my response had him laughing out loud. “Pour deux semaines, s’il vous plaît.”
I told him I wanted to stay for two weeks; so I wasn’t just speaking French I was even making jokes!

Our main mission of the day was to choose a place to have lunch, of course. The setting of a meal is so important for the enjoyment of the experience and if a place looks popular chances are the food’s going to be good. We sized up the crowds dining casually under market umbrellas at several cafes and bistros and using our “restaurant radar” decided to sit down at Le Grillon, which seems especially lively. It turned out to be a great choice because even though my French was rusty, the servers were smiling and patient. I ended up going with a green salad with blanched cauliflower and carrots to start, then a gorgeous grilled sole with a lemon sauce and ratatouille of vegetables on the side. Was I an instant expert at reading the menu en Française? No, I kind of cheated.
I liked the look of the lunch that the fashionable and fit couple sitting next to us was having, so I just pointed to that! We ended up chatting in French and I found out they were from Paris and had a country house in Provence; what a dream. As I looked around the restaurant I noted that there were several families having lunch including a large group that needed to spread out. Two young girls of about 10 or 11 picked up their plates of steak tartare and frites and moved to a table for two. They poured bottled water into their glasses and went back to grab a bowl of green salad from the parents’ table and began to eat. Just then little brother appeared and begged to have the salad back. Expertly using the salad fork and spoon he placed some of the leaves on their plates and then darted away with the bowl. Did I just witness children fighting over a salad when fries were clearly in the picture, too? American parents: there’s hope! Apparently, this enthusiasm for healthy foods can be taught as a way of life.