Thursday, May 27, 2010

Savvy Sandwiches

That's me with a deconstructed sandwich of sorts in Montreal. Fab Fixings at La Buvette Chez Simone.

“Let’s grab a sandwich” is a popular lunch time rally and was reputedly made possible by the necessity of invention at a card game in 1762. That’s when the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, catapulted bread into a new culinary category because he was too busy gambling to stop for a meal. According to legend, he asked for roast beef between two slices of bread so that he could hold the snack in one hand and continue playing cards with the other. The Earl may be happy to know, that after a few low carb diet crazed years- bread is back. According to a survey by the Grain Foods Foundation, nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults say they eat sandwiches at least once a week. From traditional ham and Swiss on rye to veggie subs to trendy paninis hot from the grill -here some sandwich savvy tips on building the best bites between bread.
Bread as Your BaseThink of a sandwich as an opportunity to customize your meal to meet taste and nutrition needs. The bread is the blank canvas. The healthiest canvas is whole grain bread because it’s higher in fiber and other nutrients found in the exterior bran portion of a grain. But, registered dietitian Sharon Palmer of Environmental Nutrition ( warns that labels can be deceiving and cautions against breads sold with phrases like “made with whole grains” or “multi-grain”. Make sure that whole grain is the first ingredient listed to avoid products that add a pinch of whole grain flour to try to jump on the healthy bread bandwagon. Choose breads with at least 2 grams of fiber per slice.
Like croissants? No wonder. Croissants are made with the equivalent of five pats of butter, so know you’re getting into high fat bread territory and avoid adding any extra butter or mayo to your sandwich. Focaccia bread, can be a higher fat choice too because it’s baked with olive oil and often more is drizzled on top after baking. Forgetting the bread and making lettuce wraps “sandwiches” is pretty popular today, too. Just note that wrapping fried chicken strips or teriyaki sauced shrimp in lettuce leaves can still wrack up a lot of calories because of the filling.
Insider Tips
Giant deli sandwiches piled high with meat and cheese can land you a lunch with your calorie total for the day. Choose no more than 3 ounces of lean meats such as ham, turkey, roast beef, or grilled chicken. Higher fat meats such as pastrami and salami contain twice the calories. If you want a chicken salad or tuna salad sandwich, just don’t add any extra mayonnaise, it’s already in the mix. A slice of cheese will add about 100 calories; so be aware of that before you pile on multiple slices.
Work in as many vegetables as possible. In classic sandwich shop speak, “Run it through the garden!” Ask for a double the usual lettuce and tomato garnish and if other veggies are available such as cucumber slices or fresh spinach- go for it. Note that ¼ of an avocado is a tasty splurge at 80 calories but is a good source of healthy mono unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin C and lutein ( good for your eyes).

Be Slather Savvy

Go easy on the mayo because it’s 100 calories per tablespoon. Light mayonnaise cuts that in half. If you’re ordering a panini, ask them not to spritz on extra oil before it hits the grill. At sub shops, note that the oil and vinegar mix can set you back 70 calories per tablespoon. So, ask for a little oil squirted on and then more of the vinegar to wet down your sub.
Mustard, with a mere 5 calories a teaspoon, is a flavor bargain. A 6” turkey and cheese sub dressed with mayo and oil is 500 calories. The same sub with mustard is 300 calories.
Sandwich side kicksSkip the chips or share with a little bag with a friend. Baked chips will have less fat and calories – but still add about 100 calories to your meal. Better yet, go for a fresh crunch with a side salad or fresh fruit option to boost nutrition and build a better lunch.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hey Kids! The White House Wants Better Menus for Little Diners

Want to see healthier options on kids’ menus at restaurants and tired of seeing nothing but chicken fingers, burgers and fries? Your concerns are part of the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

In a detailed plan presented to President Barack Obama this month, more than 70 recommendations are outlined by task force members to help meet the goal of reducing the present childhood obesity rates of 20 percent to a level of 5 percent by 2030. Priorities include strategies to help empower parents and caregivers to guide children toward healthier food and fitness habits with specific suggestions on everything from building school gardens to adding neighborhood sidewalks to improving children’s menus at restaurants.

Recommendation from the task force document: Restaurants should consider their portion sizes, improve children’s menus and make healthy options the default choice whenever possible. The improvements are particularly important because one-third of meals are consumed in restaurants.

What do some Atlanta parents — who just happen to be in the restaurant business — think about “the state of the union” for kids dining out?

Father of a boy and girl, Ian Winslade, formerly of Spice Market and chef of soon-to-open Bottle Bar Buckhead, says, “I think restaurants need to do more with kids menus. And I found if you introduce kids as toddlers to a variety of foods, you’ll have a better go of it when dining out.”

Winslade admits that even chefs who make it a career to please customers’ palates can have a tough time with their own kids.

“At about 5 years old you can get some serious push back, but hang in there because after about 8 they roll back in and become more adventurous,” Winslade said.

Ford Fry, executive chef of JCT Kitchen and father of two boys, believes good eating embraces all foods in moderation. “Hey, I’m a chef famous for my fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, but our menu focuses on great farm fresh vegetables, too. At home we eat healthy six days a week and one day a week the boys can eat whatever they want,” he said.

And to up the ante on interest in healthy menu choices and further community support of farmers who grow organic produce for Atlanta’s restaurants, Fry and friends organize a vegetable festival each August — the JCT Killer Tomato Fest.

Selling good nutrition to kids takes on many forms. At Ted’s Montana Grill, cook Otto Calvert at the Luckie Street location says a restaurant can be the best place to get kids excited about healthy foods. “We start with lots of really fresh vegetables, and we know how to season them, and we don’t overcook them. We can help parents because kids eat their vegetables here when we ask them to!”

Catering to smaller appetites

Skip the sodas. Ask for low-fat or nonfat milk. Or make your own special “soda” by asking for a combination of fruit juice with sparkling water.

Good things in small packages. Children are not just small adults, especially when it comes to nutrition. Every bite counts and every bite should be delivering healthy nutrients. Filling up on tortilla chips or fried appetizers is a bad habit for two reasons: They’ll often consume too many calories and they won’t have room for the healthy items. Get a side order of fruit or cut-up vegetables right away to keep them occupied.

Don’t clean your plate. An important lessons in nutrition is recognizing when you are full.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@carolyn

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gulp! Gulf of Mexico Seafood in Peril

The fate of fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico is being determined by winds and waves as the oil spill caused by the BP drilling rig explosion continues to spread and threaten important fishing grounds in and around the Gulf of Mexico. While layers of federal, state and local authorities work with oil industry officials to deal with and contain the spill, it’s the job of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce) to monitor seafood safety. NOAA has already moved to close some fishing grounds and oyster beds to protect consumers from contaminated products. In the case of shrimp, a great deal of the supply provided to supermarkets and restaurants is frozen and therefore safe because it could have been harvested long before the spill occurred. Will there be a shortage of Gulf coast shrimp this summer? Will the spill move down to the Keys and around to the east coast of Florida affecting fisheries there? These are questions on the minds of everyone who loves seafood from these areas and yet to be determined. One thing for sure, shrimp is incredibly popular food all around the world and certainly offers significant nutrition. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. So let’s salute to the taste and health benefits of shrimp as we continue to follow the containment of the Gulf oil spill.

Shrimp Cholesterol Not a Threat

If you've been avoiding shrimp because you’ve 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, shrimp is very low in saturated fat, the kind of fat given the biggest blame for raising blood cholesterol levels. It turns out that the cholesterol in foods we eat has less of an impact on blood cholesterol than saturated fats. Researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York found that when volunteers ate shrimp along with foods that were low in saturated fat, their blood lipid ratios remained balanced So the net-net, as you cast your net to find heart healthy seafood, is that shrimp's overall nutritional profile places it on the list of the dietary good guys. The same goes for shrimp's crustacean cousins, lobster and crab.
Pass the Lemons Please

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 (10 large shrimp). Fresh salsas, savory fruit relishes and vinegar based marinades add flavors without added fat, too.
Of course, if you drench shrimp in drawn butter or drown them in cheese or cream sauces you're changing the nutritional picture by increasing the calories and the artery-clogging saturated fat content of the dish. Fried shrimp will be higher in fat and calories, too. In fact you can add 100 calories per ounce when you plunge shrimp into the deep fryer. Make sure to seek out restaurants that use trans-fat free oils.
Nothing Shrimpy about Shrimp’s Nutritional Benefits:
Nutritional Scorecard (3 ounces steamed shrimp, about 10 large shrimp): 84 calories, 0.9 g total fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 166 mg cholesterol, 17.8 g protein.

 Nearly fat free, low in calories
 High in protein
 Good source of cardio-protective omega-3 fatty acids. Four ounces of shrimp provide 14.8% of your daily need for these protective fats.
 Excellent source of mineral selenium- associated with lowered risk of cancer
 Excellent source of vitamin B12 and - a four-ounce serving of shrimp delivers 28.2% of the daily value for vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is one of the nutrients needed to control levels of homocysteine, a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
 Mineral-rich, supplying iron, zinc and copper.
 Low in mercury and other environmental contaminants. For a complete list of mercury levels in seafood: .
Nutritional Scorecard (3 ounces steamed shrimp, 10 large shrimp): 84 calories, 0.9 g total fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 166 mg cholesterol, 17.8 g protein.

Condiment Calories
Clarified butter-120 cal/ tablespoon
Tartar sauce-70 cal/tablespoon
Cocktail sauce- 20 cal/ tablespoon

NOAA Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Closings
This link leads you to a map of closed fisheries in the Gulf, as of May 17th.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Meatless Monday or Any Day You Like

There’s a sizable food trend simmering on the sidelines to declare diets free from meat one day a week called “Meatless Monday.”

It started a few years ago as a public health awareness program associated with the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, and today it’s gaining followers who believe skipping meat one day a week is good for their health by cutting their intake of saturated fat and good for the health of the planet by saving resources such as fresh water and fossil fuel.

Why Mondays? According to the Web site,, Monday marks a move back to the structure of school and work and a time to plan ahead and set good intentions for the week.

“I think meatless Monday is a good alliteration,” said dietitian Chris Rosenbloom, who is a professor of nutrition at Georgia State University. “It could be Tofu Tuesday or Wild Greens Wednesday, but Meatless Monday has a nice poetic ring to it. And depending on your choice, the benefits can be an increase in vegetable consumption, more dietary fiber, more vitamins and minerals and healthy plant chemicals, and less cholesterol, saturated and total fat.”

It’s interesting to note that Meatless Monday has a place in history, as well. During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged American to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Food will win the war,” the government proclaimed, and “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were introduced to the nation.

Another modern moniker for folks following today’s increasingly popular middle ground between vegetarian and meat eater is the term “flexitarian.” Sometimes they eat vegetarian-style meals, and sometimes they eat meat. It could mean whole-wheat penne pasta for lunch and short ribs for dinner. But often it’s a smaller serving of meat with lots of side vegetables.

According to the Vegetarian Research Group, about 3 percent of American adults are true vegetarians who say they never eat meat, fish or poultry. But at least 10 percent of adults consider themselves vegetarians, even though they eat fish or chicken occasionally. The flexitarian model, where people say they “seek out vegetarian meals,” fits even more, with estimates as high as 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Rosenbloom cautions that a move to skip meat doesn’t automatically guarantee great health because there are dietary downfalls in the vegetarian world, too. “Watch out for high-fat and high-sodium cheese, sour cream or whole milk dairy added to vegetarian entrees. Ask the wait staff to use less cheese on a dish. And avoid high-calorie fried items. Beer-battered and deep-fried asparagus spears are not the healthiest choice, even though it is a vegetarian option.”

Some might wonder whether a Meatless Monday might cut into needed protein requirements, but Rosenbloom reassures that most Americans consume more than enough protein anyway and the vegetable kingdom is a rich source. But, again, you have to choose wisely.

“Whole grains and vegetables contain some protein and beans, like black beans, kidney beans, etc., are very high in protein because their roots fix nitrogen unlike other vegetables," Rosenbloom said. "We used to think that you had to combine certain plants [beans and rice] together at the same meal in order for your body to use the protein, but we know now you don't have to eat them at the same meal to get the benefit. However, come combinations, like beans and rice, taste great together.”

Meatless menu options (from USDA My

Choose dry beans or peas as a main dish or part of a meal often. Some choices are:

Chili with kidney or pinto beans

Stir-fried tofu

Split pea, lentil, minestrone or white bean soups

Baked beans

Black bean enchiladas

Garbanzo or kidney beans on a chef’s salad

Rice and beans

Veggie burgers or garden burgers

Hummus (chickpeas) spread on pita bread

Choose nuts as a snack, on salads or in main dishes. Use nuts to replace meat or poultry, not in addition to these items:

Use pine nuts in pesto sauce for pasta

Add slivered almonds to steamed vegetables

Add toasted peanuts or cashews to a vegetable stir fry instead of meat

Sprinkle a few nuts on top of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt

Add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat