Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Color Me Slim

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, tinsel and lights. Put on sparkly holiday fashions and let your makeup glow. But when it comes to going all out enjoying the festive meals and sweet goodies of the season remember to accessorize with care. Go easy on high calorie add-ons such as nuts, cheese, cream sauces, dips, gravy, butter, sugar and whipped cream – small additions that can add up to plenty around your waistline. That dress you bought on sale back in November for a New Year’s Eve bash may not zip up as easily now. Trim calories wherever you can so you can use them on the splurge foods you don’t want to miss.

Of course, managing calorie intake isn’t a simple task and is especially challenging during the holidays. On a typical day, a person makes over 200 decisions about food. That’s according to Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think. Wansink’s research was the first to show that choosing a smaller plate during a holiday buffet, for instance, would help folks think they were eating more than they did. New research to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that even plate color can affect how much we eat – and there’s certainly plenty of color festooning holiday tables.

Wansink says, “In a groundbreaking new study we found that the color contrast between the plate and food may have a tremendous impact on how much people serve themselves.” Partygoers in the study were directed to buffets serving pasta with either tomato or Alfredo sauce and randomly given red or white plates. Participants who had low-contrast between the food and plates (red pasta on a red plate, or white pasta on a white plate) served themselves approximately 22% more than participants with high-contrast food and plates (red pasta on white plates, or white pasta on red plates). So, to help trick yourself into eating less, choose dinnerware that contrasts the color of your food. Whether on paper or china the serving size of mashed potatoes, for instance, is more obvious on bright red and green holiday plates.

Bobbie Batista, Teya Ryan and Carolyn O'Neil at Turner Reunion Holiday Party
Holiday Helpers

Where the bowls are- Don’t sit so close to the buffet table. Wansink’s study “Serve Here, Eat There” showed that leaving some distance between you and the food resulted in men eating 29% fewer and women 10% fewer calories.

 Liz McDermott in Sleek Chic   

Wear Something Sleek- Wearing body conscious clothes will serve as a reminder that you can't overeat advises dietitian Heather Bauer, author of “Bread is the Devil” out in January. She says, “Guys, you don't get a free pass here.”

Be Sociable- Wait at least 20 minutes before eating at an event. Bauer suggests, “Make at least one full lap around a party to greet people before starting in on the appetizers.”

Don’t Go Hungry- Consider it nutrition pre-gaming says Bauer. By eating a pre-party snack you won’t be so ravenous that hurdle past other guests to get to the parmesan artichoke cheese dip.

Give the Gift of Health - Here are a few bright ideas for last minute gifts in the

healthy eating category.

 Salad spinner- create a gift basket with olive oils, mustards and vinegars.

 Slow cooker- one of the best ways to tenderize tasty cuts of lean meat.

 Microplane grater - for zesting citrus, grating whole spices to add flavor without calories

 Specialty spices – more expensive spices like cardamom, vanilla, saffron, smoked paprika and curry powders are elegant gifts to add flavor and healthy antioxidants with no calories.

 Immersion blender – make rich and creamy textured soups and sauces from cooked vegetables without the need for much or any cream.

 Restaurant guides- a Zagat Guide for your friend’s city will help them plan what and where to eat when dining out. Whether they’re craving Beef Bourguignon or Barbecue they can find names and locations of restaurants, check out an eatery’s menu and select healthier menu options ahead of time. The latest Atlanta Zagat Guide is the 19th edition.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Harvest of Fiber

Chef Art Smith with gift of green tomatoes from my garden.

The menu at newly opened Southern Art in Buckhead may feature selections from the artisanal ham bar and chef Art Smith’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken, but closer inspection reveals a variety of ways to enjoy eating more fruits and vegetables, too.

Gotta show the Buttermilk Fried Chicken!

Art Smith, who has famously cooked for Oprah Winfrey and more privately lost a lot of weight and improved his own health through good nutrition, leads a culinary team serving up fiber rich side dishes such as okra, Brussels sprouts, greens, cream-less creamed corn, grilled green tomato and apple relish, roasted sweet potatoes and beets. Since the restaurant is located in the Intercontinental Hotel, Southern Art serves lunch and breakfast. A high fiber way to start the day is the Art Start which features steel cut oatmeal and fresh berries with scrambled egg whites and yogurt.

 What's the fuss about fiber?
Bet you wear a seatbelt, but are you eating enough fiber to protect your health? One of the most successful recent health campaigns includes a simple phrase that conveys action and consequence- “Click or Ticket.” The power of a persuasive message is what nutrition experts hope will help change eating habits with the slogan “Fruits & Veggies- More Matters.” Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables provides a cornucopia of health benefits from disease prevention to weight control. While a host of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as antioxidants are found in the produce section; fiber is a key component. The sad truth is that most Americans consume only 12 to 14 grams of fiber per day, falling far short of the recommended intake of 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day.

Where’s the Fiber?

Most fiber comes from plant foods, like beans, broccoli and oatmeal. It’s the part of the plant that your body just can’t digest, so it pretty much comes out the way it goes in, making it calorie-free. Fiber in foods helps keep you from suffering crazy highs and lows in blood sugar levels, they help lower cholesterol, prevent constipation and they may even reduce your risk of some types of cancer. While your body can’t digest fiber, the “good” bacteria that are permanent residents in your intestinal tract, feast on all that passes by. The result is a bigger, stronger bacterial force that may help keep your immune system healthy. And in keeping with our theme of a happier body, high-fiber diets slow down digestion, making you feel full longer, and delaying the munchies.

A Tale of Two Fibers

There are actually several kinds of fiber, but the two fiber groups you should make a mental note of are soluble and insoluble

Soluble Fiber: The kind of fiber in oat bran, apples and beans acts kind of like a sponge in the digestive tract and has been shown to grab onto cholesterol and take it down the line. It's also kind of filling so it helps keep your appetite in check.
Guests are greeted with veggies at Southern Art

Insoluble Fiber: The kind of fiber in the strings of celery, apple peels, asparagus, kale or in cereal or rice bran is indigestible so working as “nature’s broom” it works to sweep the intestinal tract clean. Not to risk sounding like a laxative commercial, but this kind of fiber keeps you, ah, regular.

Dishing Up Fiber

Fiber Find Grams of fiber

Lentils (1/2 cup) 8

Raspberries (1 cup) 8

Beans, pinto (1/2 cup) 6

Whole wheat pasta (1 cup) 6

100% Bran (3/4 cup) 5

Dried figs (2) 5

Roasted Soy nuts (1 oz) 5

Almonds (1 oz) 4

Broccoli (1 cup) 4

Brown rice (1 cup) 4

Dried Plums (prunes) (1/4 cup) 4

Peas, green (1/2 cup) 4

Pears (1 medium) 4

Spinach, fresh (1cup) 4

Banana (1) 3

Oatmeal, instant, plain (1 packet) 3

Strawberries (1 cup) 3

Whole wheat bread (1 slice) 3 

Wild rice (1 cup) 3
Southern Art's Ham and Biscuits with Okra!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sack Lunch Savvy for School

Back to school fashions are strutting their stuff in the cafeteria, too. Brown paper bags are fading away and insulated lunch containers are taking over.
The Little Mermaid for Little Lunchers 

Bento Boxes are great for kids who don't want food "to touch" 

 The simple sandwich is being replaced by a selection of bites presented bento box style, “It’s kind of like making your own “lunch-ables," says Sandy Nissenberg dietitian and author of Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won't Trade. “You buy a plastic container and fill the compartments with fun lunch options like cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes on a kabob, turkey tortilla roll-ups, cold chicken pasta salad or mini chicken drumsticks. Add a fruit on the side, get milk at school and you’re good to go.” Nissenberg likes this mix-and-match small bites approach because it appeals to child-sized appetites and lunch periods at most schools are pretty short, “By the time a child finds a seat, talks to his friends, and finally pulls out his lunch, there may be only 15 minutes to eat. Most large lunches will probably get thrown out." Easy to peel Clementines or pre-sliced oranges and apples are more likely to be eaten than whole fruit. That’s especially true for kids with loose teeth or braces.  
Kids don't know the half of it.....half should be fruit/veggies. 

My Lunch MyPlate
Whether the cafeteria bound container is festooned with Hello Kitty, Justin Bieber or the Atlanta Falcons’ logo – what’s inside matters to child nutrition experts. The new USDA My Plate nutrition icon indicates one half of a healthy plate should be filled with fruit and vegetables, with the two other quarters occupied by a lean protein and a whole grain starch. To complete the meal -on the side of MyPlate is a cup of milk. This same food philosophy can be used to fill a lunch box. How do you get beyond the usual carrots and celery sticks solution?  Liz Weiss, dietitian and co-author of No Whine With Dinner suggests mixing in chickpeas and blanched broccoli florets to pasta salads and add variety to veggie snack offerings, “Cucumber wheels, red or orange bell pepper strips, sugar snap peas or snow pea pods. Add some Ranch or other dressing like hummus for dipping because the oil in these dips actually helps kids absorb more nutrients from the veggies.”  
What about the teens and ‘tweens easily distracted by the lunch time social hour? That table of ‘gossip girls’ busy checking out the handsome new boy don’t want to be seen gobbling a big sandwich like a hungry ranch hand. The new breed of whole grain sandwich or bagel ‘thins’ might be a better fit with 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber. For something sweet yet figure-friendly they may prefer to daintily dip grapes, strawberries or pineapple chunks into protein packed Greek yogurt.

Food Safety Patrol
Thrown in a locker, stuffed in a backpack or stashed under a desk for several hours, sandwiches and other lunch foods can linger in the bacteria friendly room temperature “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees for too long.  Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin found that 95% of packed lunches in a recent study were at an unsafe temperature. That’s why insulated lunch bags and boxes- many with a space to add an ice pack- get an “A” from food safety experts. Dietitian Jo-Ann Heslin author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books suggests you start thinking ‘cool’ the night before, “If you pack lunch in the morning, chill the lunchbox in the refrigerator overnight. If you pack lunch at night, put the food in the lunchbox and refrigerate both overnight. This helps keep all foods cooler longer.”  A thermos can keep hot soups hot but it can keep salads cool, too so they’re still crisp and cold at lunch time. Note: Perishable foods can sit in the danger zone for up to 2 hours before the lunch becomes risky.
Some lunch bags are built to carry cold packs 
Something Extra.
Since fast food restaurants succeed in attracting attention to their childrens’menus with toys and prizes perhaps two can play at this game. Nissenberg suggests, “Don't forget to add a character napkin for fun or maybe an inspiring note or fun message. It will bring along a smile during lunch.” 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Savor Steaks South America Style

La Cabrera parilla in Palermo Hollywood section of BA.
 I’ve got Argentina on the mind this week. My daughter Katie just began a four month stay in Buenos Aires for a university program focused on Spanish and international business. Hopefully she’ll return fluent in the language and learn lots about a culture famous for tango and fabulous steaks. At 20 she’s old enough to legally enjoy Argentina’s signature red wine, Malbec, too. (At least while she’s living there!)

Another reminder of Argentine cuisine arrived in a newsletter from dietitian colleagues who are members of the Food and Culinary Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association. Paula Tsufis wrote about the groups’ trip to sample South American food customs such as ‘asado’, Argentina’s traditional barbecue of meats and empanadas as she described, “Turnovers filled with a mixture of ground meat cooked with onions, olives and raisins.”

Steaks are meant for sharing; condiments are inspiring.
La Cabrera parilla in BA. 

Argentines eat 160 pounds of beef per capita, and their tender, deeply flavored grass-fed beef (typically charred on an open fire called a parilla) is considered among the best in the world. During a visit to Buenos Aires a couple of years ago, I really liked that steaks were sliced to share and served with lots of different savory condiments such as pickled onions and chimichurri sauces made with olive oil, vinegar, finely chopped parsley, onion, garlic and herbs. When you add that kind of punch to the parilla plate you don’t need a Texas-sized steak hanging off the plate, as you see in a lot of U.S. steak houses. In Argentina the expertly seasoned and grilled cuts of beef, lamb or pork may be center stage, but interesting salads, such as hearts of palm with tomato, onion and green olives grace the tables, too. In Argentina the dining style is more European, with smaller portions, and the pace is slow and easy. The feel and flavors of Argentina, as well as other Latin cuisines, are a specialty at Pura Vida Tapas & Bar in the Poncey-Highlands neighborhood. Puerto Rican born chef Hector Santiago’s menu celebrates the cuisines of South and Central America. He grills hangar steak “parilla” style on a charcoal grill and serves with an Argentine inspired house made chimichurri sauce.

Steak Places Can Be Healthy

Believe it or not, steak restaurants in the U.S. can be among the easiest places to find a healthy meal. You get to pick the size of your steak so portion control is built into the menu options. There are usually delicious salads to choose from and most side dishes are served a la carte so you can order steamed broccoli without the cheese sauce. Just don’t count that huge stack of onion rings as a vegetable serving.

While heavily marbled steaks have been prized in the past, there’s a move at modern steak houses to serve leaner cuts of beef such as tenderloin and sirloin and to prepare them with health conscious steak lovers in mind. Executive chef Ian Winslade of Murphy’s Restaurant has added a grilled strip steak to the menu served with a tangy sesame mustard sauce and sliced Portobello mushrooms. Owner Tom Murphy notes that since many customers eat at the Virginia Highlands restaurant multiple times a week - for lunch and dinner - there’s an emphasis on taste and health. Strip steaks are among the 29 cuts of beef considered “lean” which by the official USDA definition which is: less than 10g total fat and less than 95mg cholesterol per 3.5 oz. serving. Another nutrition note: lean beef provides needed nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, riboflavin and of course protein. Even The Capital Grille in Buckhead, known for big steaks, big martinis and big red wines is lightening up for summer. Lunch guests can mix-and-match three choices from nine small plate offerings including mini-beef tenderloin sandwiches.

Choose Steak Accessories Wisely

Hearts of palm and tomato salad at parilla in BA.

Saddle Up:

Sliced tomatoes-add a sprinkle of salt and grind or two from the pepper mill

Coleslaw- ask for your cabbage lightly tossed with the slaw dressing.

Baked potato-whether white or sweet, a half is usually the right size portion since steak places buy huge spuds.

Steamed Vegetables- a squeeze of fresh lemon is all you need.

Sautéed Spinach and mushrooms – ask the kitchen to go light on the butter or oil

Steak sauce- no fat, 15 calories per tablespoon.

Chimichurri sauce- olive oil based, 50 calories per tablespoon.

"Steer" Clear:

Mashed potatoes- some recipes are so high in fat they’re more like potato ice cream!

Potato au gratin – any food followed by “au gratin” means it’s loaded with cheese.

Creamed Spinach- rich tasting for a reason; heavy cream and butter often involved.

Onion rings-deep fat fried and the size of CD case. Share an order per table.

Béarnaise / Hollandaise- cream and butter based, 70 calories per tablespoon.

Selection of wines at Buenos Aires Airport is Excellente! 

Argentina here I come! I'll be back in October 2011! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Follow that food truck!

Follow that food truck. Whether it’s up the street, over at the farmer’s market or on Twitter and Facebook there’s a bumper crop of cooks serving meals from mobile kitchens this summer. Greg Smith, president of the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, “It’s like we had pressure on the dam and it burst. It started with King of Pops carts and the Yumbii truck and now we’ve got at least ten trucks fully permitted by the health department.” A far cry from the neighborhood ‘ice cream man’ and hot dog stands; the food truck scene represents a wide range of ethnic and gourmet offerings. From Yumbii’s Asian rib-eye tacos and Tilapia tacos with Korean BBQ sauce to W.O.W truck’s arepas -Venezuelan corn cakes filled with beef, chicken or pork- food trucks serve an impressive variety of quality vittles at affordable prices. Even popsicles get a culinary upgrade. Steven Carse’s King of Pops with carts working the streets of Athens, Atlanta, Asheville and Charleston offers frozen flavors such as chocolate sea salt, strawberry rhubarb and banana pudding.
Karen Bremer executive director of The Georgia Restaurant Association applauds the creativity and diversity food trucks bring to the Atlanta food scene, “It has really blossomed and it’s a great way for consumers to try something new and food trucks allow the opportunity to try on new concepts before making the significant investment required for a "bricks and motor" restaurant.”
A survey out this week by the market research firm Technomic, Inc found that 91 percent of folks familiar with food trucks say the trend is here to stay. The biggest reason non-users of food trucks cited for not frequenting a mobile cart was hesitation over buying food from a vehicle. Certainly food safety and proper permitting is a big concern, “Everyone’s required to operate out of a commercial kitchen,” explains Smith who adds that area municipalities haven’t exactly made it easy for food truck owners to roll into their new businesses easily, “It’s extra complicated in the metro Atlanta area because we have so many municipalities with different methods of interpreting the health code. The City of Atlanta and the Fulton County Health Department are the ones we have worked with since we started. Marietta is taking initial steps to permit food trucks now.”

Smith who is an attorney specializing in the restaurant industry and other small businesses says the Atlanta Street Food Coalition aims to be the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for food trucks, “My goal is to get everyone permitted for membership so consumers can recognize a brand they trust.”
Bremer focuses on food safety too, “As long as food trucks work collaboratively with our public health officials to insure safe food handling practices, we support this dynamic and emerging segment of our industry.”

Where do you find food trucks?
While many food trucks advertise daily locations – from office complexes to city parks- on their websites there’s an emerging trend in Atlanta to create food truck “pods” or gatherings of multiple mobile kitchens. You can find food trucks in Midtown on Mondays and Thursdays at the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlantic Station on Fridays and Thursday evenings at the Buckhead Theatre. Jenny Levison of Souper Jenny restaurant in Buckhead loads up her brightly colored "Incredible Flying Soupmobile" with soups, salads and sandwiches and takes her show on the road to food truck events, "It's entertaining and you can get all kinds of people to sample lots of food in one place."
Not surprisingly, the Technomic survey found that location is vital to the success of food trucks, as more than half of consumers “just happen upon them.” Facebook and Twitter are key ingredients for marketing these mobile restaurants because 84 percent of heavy social media users visit food trucks once a week. “I think it’s really cool,” says Smith “It brings people out and really taps into the power of community in Atlanta.” And the vibrant food truck scene is apparently not only focused on sharing good food at fair prices it’s a community that cares about customers in many ways. On King of Pops’ Facebook page this week a message, “If you or someone you know drives a burgundy xterra and lost your sunglasses this morning I have them at the corner til 730 or so.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

A sure sign of summer is a menu populated with plenty of fresh tomatoes. Red, green, orange, yellow, purple, gold or even black – beautiful tomatoes are the culinary stars of the season. “We are getting all kinds of assorted heirloom tomatoes right now from Woodland Gardens,” says Ford Fry, executive chef of JCT Kitchen and soon to open No. 246 in Decatur, “There are wonderful cherry tomato varieties too like black cherry tomatoes and watermelon looking tomatoes and Black Crème tomatoes!”
Fry’s enthusiasm for all-things-tomato and his support of local farmers led to the creation of The Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival. The third annual event kicks off Sunday, July 17 at JCT Kitchen & Bar at 1pm to benefit Georgia Organics (www.georgiaorganics.org). “I hear people are going to dress up like tomatoes this year. We have thirty five chefs competing in this crazy, quirky food festival and they want to win.” Last year, Aria executive chef Gerry Klaskala won with a simple grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. JCT’s chef de cuisine, Brian Horn, made a memorable Tomato Jelly Donut filled with tomato jam and bacon flavored mayonnaise. Executive chef Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill created a tomato ice cream sandwich. Fry says “This year we’re doing an heirloom tomato Monte Cristo sandwich and you can count on us using the bacon mayo again.”
“It’s a day that truly showcases the sheer diversity of an ingredient,” says Executive chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud Restaurant, “I’m especially impressed with what the mixologists do with tomatoes.” Way beyond Bloody Mary’s, the creative libations last year included Bacchanalia’s tomato moonshine poured over shaved ice served with sweet condensed buttermilk. Eyester reveals his entry ideas for this Sunday’s festival competition, “We are working on a tomato lemonade beverage and a chilled tomato soup that will spoof the classic Bloody Mary.”

Tomatoes on the Menu
Ford Fry, JCT Kitchen & Bar and No. 246 :
“Tomatoes are one of the only vegetables that need nothing other than salt to make them sing. The tomato will carry all of the other flavors very well and enhance grilled fish, scallops and fresh pasta. Tomatoes are naturally acidic. Acid tends to enhance other natural flavors. A really light dish we’re doing for summer is tomato broth with tortellini and cherry tomatoes and freshly shaved parmesan.”
Ron Eyester, Rosebud Restaurant:
“I’m like a little kid and get so excited when tomatoes are in season. This year I love the sweet amber colored Sungold tomatoes from Crystal Organics farm.” Rosebud’s special Benton Bacon dinner this Thursday night may be a salute to Allan Benton’s celebrated pork products but Eyester says, “I’m just as excited about the local cherry tomatoes in the Cornbread Panzanella salad on the evening’s menu.”
How about those tomatoes? (Nutritionally speaking)
A Medium Tomato
Very Low Calorie/No fat- 35 calories
Vitamin A (20 % of daily needs) - needed for healthy skin and vision.
Vitamin C (57 % of daily needs) - needed for healthy immune system and skin.
1.5 grams Fiber (about the same as slice of whole wheat bread)
Potassium- 300 milligrams (good source) –needed for heart health, blood pressure control. .
Lycopene- excellent course of lycopene, an antioxidant plant nutrient linked to reduced rates of cancer, strong evidence linking tomatoes and diet rich in vegetables to reduced risk of heart disease.
Take Two Bowls of Gazpacho- A Tufts University study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that daily consumption of two bowls of gazpacho for two weeks significantly increased blood levels of vitamin C and decreased biomarkers of stress and inflammation.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Veggies Culinary Stars in Aspen

What happened to the foie gras and caviar?

It seems top chefs are excited about vegetables. Three days of cooking seminars and wine tastings at the 29th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen - one of the world’s most exclusive and star chef studded culinary events in the world - enthusiastically embraced the beauty and benefits of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini and kale.

Jose Andres, chef, cookbook author and owner of celebrated restaurants in Washington, DC’s including Jaleo and Zaytinya put his passion for cooking produce right up front with a seminar titled, “Sexy Vegetables.” Andres, known for his love of Spanish cuisine, zealously addressed a packed ballroom of enthusiastic foodie fans at Aspen’s St. Regis Hotel and expertly prepared eight vegetable dishes in under an hour including a radish and grapefruit salad with shrimp, watermelon and tomato skewers with a sherry vinaigrette, cucumber and tomato gazpacho with Spanish sherry and Brussels sprouts tapas with green apples and grapes. “Most people cook Brussels sprouts too long for 20 to 30 minutes,” Andres admonished, “Are we nuts? It should be two to three to four minutes! Don’t over cook them; it releases the sulfur smell and that is not sexy!”

Risotto for All Seasons

Sustainability expert and Connecticut chef Michel Nischan who is a culinary consultant to Atlanta’s Terrace Restaurant in the Ellis Hotel presented four risotto recipes –one for each season’s harvest of vegetables- featuring ancient grains called faro and spelt. Nischan, whose restaurant Dressing Room is known for local and organic menu items, centered on the health and taste advantages of eating with the seasons. He shared his definition of sustainability, “It means you give as much back to the earth as you take. For instance, composting leftover vegetable peelings creates more soil to plant more vegetables.”

Drink Your Salad

Andres, who was named 2011 James Beard Award Outstanding Chef, certainly knows about quality but he credits his recent 25 pound weight loss to focusing on quantity, “It’s really about the calories. Learning how much you personally should be eating.” Filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit is the latest diet advice from nutrition experts as illustrated by the USDA’s new My Plate icon. Filling your glass works too as Andres said about his gazpacho recipe, “You don’t eat the salad, you drink the salad!”

Aspen’s summer time vibe is lively with folks headed out hiking, biking, river rafting and fly fishing. The beauty of the wild flowers and Aspen trees spills over into the city’s cuisine. At The Little Nell Hotel, an epicenter for those devoted to dining, Montagna’s menu features great steaks and fabulous fresh fish but vegetables seem to rank just as high in the kitchen. A salad of greens, sliced radishes, fava beans and thin asparagus was so fresh it nearly leapt off the plate.

Wine with Vegetables

“Times they are a changing,” remarked registered dietitian Ashley Koff who noted that one of the Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco chose to feature a vegetarian dish of cauliflower and sea lettuce, “It was clear that the days of all animal all day are a thing of the past. As for what wines go best with your veggies, wine writer Mark Oldman helped me choose a delicious Spanish Rueda - the new "it" wine he said." More than five thousand food and wine lovers converge to sample the best vintages and victuals each June in Aspen.

Isn't That Jacques Pepin?

It’s a weekend where the majestic scenery of the Colorado Rockies is closely matched by culinary icon sightings. Jacques Pepin having lunch at Ajax Tavern with Atlanta chef and recent Bravo Top Chef winner Richard Blais. (Try the truffle fries!)

The French Laundry’s chef Thomas Keller having dinner at Aspen’s chic Cache Cache restaurant with chef Daniel Boulud of New York. My favorite food memory of the weekend- enjoying a grilled vegetable salad of marinated artichokes, butternut squash, Portobello mushrooms with arugula and chards of parmesan cheese at Campo de Fiori with Atlanta friends including winemaker Rob Mondavi and his wife Lydia of 29 Cosmetics. Taste, health, beauty and good fun. All that and plenty of vegetables being celebrated in Aspen this summer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Marvelous Marche Region of Italy

Let the love of all things Italian continue........ Under the Marche Sun.

You've probably been to Rome, Florence and Venice. And perhaps you've also toured the Amalfi Coast or walked the cliffs of the Cinque Terra. But, chances are you haven't visited the Marche region on the east coast of Italy. The lavendar scented view above is taken from the lovely Hotel Emelia in Portonovo perched high above the Adriatic Sea.

Marche is a region brimming with culture, beauty, art, cuisine, wine and people who greet you with an attitude, "We've been waiting for you!" What the towns and villages of Marche do not have are crowded streets or long lines to get into museums and historic sights.

From stone country houses such as Locanda ca' Andreana offering a dream sequence of farm fresh lunches to elegant evenings inspired by top Italian designs at Symposium restaurant ......... the Marche is yours to discover.

More to come.....ciao for now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Slimmer Menu Tips

As summer’s heat moves in, it’s time for casual dress and laid-back dinners on the patio or porch. Foods lighten up, too, with a new crop of restaurant menus featuring more salads, grilled entrees, cold soups, frozen drinks and fruit for dessert.
The heat drives more diners to cool down with cold foods, and summer’s skin-baring fashions increase demand for waistline-friendly dishes and drinks.
Many restaurant salads aren’t the summer slimmers they may seem. Dietitian Jo Lichten, author of “Dining Lean — How to Eat Healthy When You’re Not at Home” (Nutrifit Publishing, 2007, www.drjo.com), says take a good look at what is tossed into entree salads. “If you’re eating salads just to cut calories, stop and do the math. When you pile on the cheese, fried chicken, croutons, taco chips and salad dressing, you’ve probably eaten more calories than a large burger and fries.”
Remember that the principal ingredients in a salad are supposed to be fresh, raw vegetables, which are low in calories and a good source of fiber to keep you feeling full. Pick veggies in lots of different colors to contribute a wide variety of nutrients to your diet. The fluid in fruits and vegetables helps keep you hydrated in the summer heat. Add a total of 3 to 4 ounces of lean proteins such as boiled egg, grilled chicken or steak, steamed shrimp, seared tuna or deli-sliced roast beef, turkey or ham. Accessorize with a few nuts or small amount of grated Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.

Summer menu tips

Look for menus that take advantage of summer’s bountiful harvest of low-calorie, nutrient-rich produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, spinach, sweet onions, peaches, basil, strawberries and all kinds of other berries. Did you know that the vitamin C in produce is essential for building collagen for healthy skin? But don’t forget the sunscreen.

Don’t be fooled by the fire. Grilled meats and fish are often slathered with butter or oil, so request that your order be brushed lightly with oil. Enjoy steak sauce and barbecue sauce — most brands have fewer than 20 calories per tablespoon. The “fire” in Mexican or Thai foods, from fresh chiles used in recipes, comes from the powerful antioxidant compound called capsaicin. Research shows it actually boosts the metabolic rate a bit, so it may help you burn a few more calories. If it’s so hot it makes you sweat, you’ve found a dish to help cool your body in the summer heat.

Avoid cream-based cold soups, and go for bowls chock-full of vegetables such as gazpacho. Fruit soups, from melon to strawberry, are delicious and nutritious summer menu additions, too.

Instead of ice cream, you’ll save hundreds of calories per serving by choosing sorbets made with fresh fruit or frozen confections made with low-fat or nonfat milk. Some frozen yogurt outlets make their products with skim milk, so there are zero grams of fat per serving. But watch out for empty calories in frozen ices, slushes and frozen “fruit” drinks made from colored, flavored sugar water. They may be nonfat, but they are pure sugar and offer no nutritional value. Watch those road trip treats: A 40-ounce fruit-flavored frozen slush drink at a convenience store can contain up to 500 calories. Look for frozen fruit pops made with frozen fruit. Some of the best are popsiclesfrozen pops made by King of Pops and sold via street carts at area farmers markets. Grapefruit mint, strawberry lemonade and coconut lemongrass are three of King of Pops’ most popular flavors.

Cocktail calorie cautions: Pina coladas may be popular poolside, but Lichten cautions that these high-calorie cocktails don’t belong anywhere near a bikini. “Instead of a pina colada, margarita or daiquiri [at 350-400 calories per 8 ounces], choose a light beer or wine spritzer [100 calories per 12 ounces] or wine, sangria, or a rum and diet cola [80 calories per 4 ounces].” For less than 100 calories per 8 ounces, choose a summer cocktail of vodka and soda with a spritz of fruit juice. Increasingly more available are the new “skinny” mixers for margaritas made with noncaloric sweeteners such as Splenda or stevia. Margarita mixes, often super-sugary slurries that make for a soft drink-type beverage, are on the outs. In favor, por favor, are bar mixes made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and a hint of artificial sweetener to add a little sweet to the sour.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brides-to-be vow to trim down for big day

Here comes the bride and chances are she’s been on a diet. Whether it’s a wedding in June or January, losing weight before walking down the aisle is a top priority for over 80 percent of brides-to-be, according to a Fitness magazine poll of 1,000 women.

“Everyone will be looking at her that day and she is striving to be the perfect bride,” said bridal stylist Jessica Hancock of Winnie Couture in Buckhead. She advises even the most enthusiastic dieters to be cautious when choosing the size of their wedding dress.

“Since gowns have to be ordered six months in advance, brides do not have the option of waiting until they are at their ideal weight," Hancock said. "We always recommend brides order the size they are at the time of measuring. We never recommend ordering smaller. It is too risky. You can always take a dress in to fit your body, but a dress cannot always be let out.”

A six-month or often a year-long time line to plan for the big day offers plenty of time to lose weight gradually and safely.

“This is a highly motivated group. But I recommend brides-to-be make a vow to lose on average a pound a week,” said dietitian Robyn Flipse, author of "The Wedding Dress Diet." “Unrealistic goals and crash diets make for tired brides who are dehydrated with wrinkled skin and dull lifeless hair. You want to look beautiful in those photos, right?”

Flipse, whose book was published ten years ago, says it’s been rediscovered in the wake of the world’s attention to Britain’s Royal Wedding.

“I have to thank Kate Middleton for getting married," she said. "There’s brand new enthusiasm for the book and I owe it all to Kate.”

Pre-wedding weight plan

The book is cleverly laid out as a course in good nutrition and good sense, specifically designed with a bride’s weight goals and the unique challenges she’ll face along the way to her final fitting.

“There are often many functions thrown in a bride and groom’s honor from luncheons to showers to surprise parties," Flipse said. "What if you were going to work out and all of a sudden, ‘Surprise!’ It’s hard to stick to a fitness schedule.”

To help navigate a party buffet, Flipse recommends using a small sized plate, choosing a lean protein such beef tenderloin and filling the rest of the plate with veggies and one serving of a whole grain food such as a small whole wheat roll. She cautions brides not to starve themselves.

“It will only backfire on you and you’ll eat more later," she said. "And if you make sure to include a lean protein choice at breakfast, lunch and dinner, you won’t feel hungry so you can avoid unplanned snack attacks. Beef isn’t just for boys. It gives brides protein, iron, zinc and other nutrients needed to stay strong during this often pretty stressful time.”

In sickness and in health

While the first focus may be the fit of the dress, dietitian Ashley Koff, who is a consultant for the CW network show "Shedding for the Wedding," said, “It was a rare bride who only had her eyes on the wedding day. They were focused on this as the time to make life changes so that their new life with their partner would be a healthy one.”

Flipse said, “The difference between a decade ago and now is that brides and grooms are both focused on fitness and setting up a healthy kitchen. It’s their food world, not a his-or-her diet thing. They’re both doing the cooking and shopping and making decisions together such as, ‘Will we eat organic? How will we feed our kids?’ Planning their new life together means planning food and fitness goals too.”

Wedding diet planners

The perfect dress: Size doesn’t matter as much as a proper fit and style. “Once they try on gowns, they sometimes realize what they want is not always what looks best,” said Hancock. “The bridal stylists become close with our brides and they usually share with us what part of their body they are worried about. We are then able to give them recommendations to make them look and feel their best.”

Tailoring Tip: Hancock said, “Brides do not realize that five pounds will not make a difference in the fit of the gown. A significant amount of weight needs to be lost in order to downsize one or two sizes.”

Showtime!: The day of the wedding is like the opening of a Broadway show, said Flipse. “You don’t want to come down with a cold," she said. "Eating a variety of healthy foods not only helps you reach your fitness goals. It keeps your immune system running strong.”

Lose five pounds fast: Flipse said women often overlook the instant streamlining effect good posture can have on a figure. “Hold your head high, your stomach in and walk with confidence," she said. "It elongates the torso.” Of course, this tip works for the bridesmaids, the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom and wedding guests as well. Didn’t Kate Middleton’s posture-perfect mother, Carole, look absolutely smashing, too?

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Farm Fresh Salmon from Norway

There’s more than one fish in the sea.
And increasingly today, a lot of those fish are swimming around under the watchful eyes of fish farmers. During a recent trip to Norway, I had the opportunity to visit a salmon farm in the middle of a clear, cold fjord near historic cobble stoned city of Stavanger. Since my philosophy for choosing the best foods to eat for taste and health is ‘the more you know, the more you can eat’ I was interested in learning more about the risks and benefits of fish raised in captivity; especially since so many people today are asking the question, “Should I buy farm raised fish?” The answer simply put - it depends on the farm.

Fish Farming’s Not New

First let’s go back in time to ancient Hawaii -more than 1,000 years ago- when Polynesian settlers raised fish and shellfish in stone ponds built next to the sea. They fed the fish and managed water quality with moveable gates to allow the flow of the tides.
So there’s nothing new fangled about fish farming, but the science of aquaculture has come a long way.
Before my trip via speed boat across the Norwegian fjord to a floating platform overlooking salmon leaping energetically in their protected circular pens; I visited the The National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research in Bergen. Scientists here conduct research to provide advice on health and safety aspects of seafood both wild and farmed; as well as the health of the environment. An important focus is nutrition - both for developing feed composition for the fish and tailoring seafood products to optimize nutritional value for consumers who eat them. The connection between feed and fish quality is strong. “We call it ‘fish in - fish out’” explained Harald Sveier a specialist in aquaculture health for The Leroy Seafood Group, “The feed we use can impact the levels of omega 3 fats in the fish as well as other beneficial nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals.” Currently fish oils are mixed into grain based feed to provide the punch that boosts heart healthy omega 3 content in farm raised salmon (often much higher than wild salmon). But, Sveier predicts a shortage of fish oils in the future with the global demand created by an increase in fish farming, “That’s why we’re researching the use of plant based omega 3 oils such as rapeseed oil. It’s still an excellent source.”
Room to Jump and Swim
A key ingredient in growing healthy fish is healthy water. Norwegian regulations require that fish farmers prevent over crowding for the health of fish and fjord. Unlike many fish farm operations in Asia which Sveier described as “horrible”; it appears there’s plenty of room for Norwegian salmon to swim because the concentration of fish per confined area of water is kept at 2 ½ %. Aquaculture technicians on the Leroy platform I visited monitored computer screens that keep track of the oxygenation of the water in each pen and showed an underwater camera view of the salmon swimming around. “If the fish are happy they will grow faster,” says Sveier, “and because we’re using these practices today the fish are healthier so we don’t have to use antibiotics.” One sizable threat to farm raised salmon is the tiny sea louse which attaches to the fish’s skin and saps its strength. Norwegian fish farming operations, such as Leroy, are fighting back with a natural solution by introducing little fish that eat the sea lice and effectively clean off the salmon.

Fjord to Fork

Salmon from Norway may not be labeled with the country of origin. Often you’ll see “Atlantic Salmon” on restaurant menus or on supermarket signs indicating it could be from Norway, Canada or other north Atlantic nations. But it could also be from Chile, where salmon farming is big business, too. Chef Scott Gambone, Food and Beverage Manager for the Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation says, “Just as we tell guests the name of the farms where our fresh produce is grown; it would be good to be more specific about the waters the fish came from.” Fish farmers in Norway, proud of their carefully tended crops, would like to see ‘ocean to table’ join the ‘farm to table’ movement, too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chocolate Milk Makeovers

Whether it’s chocolate milk on a school lunch menu or fruit flavored yogurt eaten during a coffee break, there’s something you might not know about the grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts label of dairy products. The total number of grams includes the amount of the naturally occurring milk sugar called lactose. (By the way, the “-ose” ending on words in the nutrition world let’s you know this compound is a type of sugar such as lactose, sucrose, glucose or fructose.)
For instance, when you see that an 8 ounce glass of chocolate milk contains 27 grams of total sugar consider that 12 grams of this comes from the naturally occurring milk sugar lactose; leaving 15 grams or about 60 calories worth from sucrose added to sweeten the milk. The problem is that the Nutrition Facts label doesn’t require “added sugars” be revealed separately. The same goes for fruit flavored yogurts; the sugar content listed is a total of added sugars from the fruit preserves and the lactose in the milk used to make the yogurt.
Chocolate Milk Makeovers
Because of concerns about consumption of sugar, “We do get parents who say get rid of flavored milk” says registered dietitian Marilyn Yon, Compliance Specialist with Georgia’s School Nutrition Program, “but we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Yon shares nutrition research with parents that shows compared to kids who drink plain milk, children who drink flavored milk consume more milk overall and fewer soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks. They also get more calcium, vitamin D and potassium.”

Nationwide, chocolate milk producers today are working to lower the amount of added sugars as well as introducing fat free versions to lower calories and improve the overall nutrition profile of chocolate milk, especially for school food service. California milk processors make fat-free chocolate milk for schools with only 10 grams of added sugars per cup. Yon says Georgia will introduce the slimmed down, lower sugar recipe for flavored milks starting in August for the next school year, “We’re previewing a new flavored milk made by Mayfield Dairy that is fat free and the sugar content has been lowered from 25 grams to 22 grams with 10 grams of added sugars. We’re hoping other smaller milk providers will follow statewide.”
But, will kids drink it? Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Science Board, tested children’s acceptance of lower-calorie flavored milks. Johnson shares, “We measured children’s actual consumption of traditional flavored milk and compared it with children consuming lower-calorie flavored milk and found there was no difference in how much milk the kids drank. The children in our study accepted the “healthier” milk.”
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity detailed 70 recommendations to eradicate childhood obesity within the next two generations. One of them aimed at food service providers advises “Be Creative. Host a kids’ tasting event … and let kids guide you in developing new items that are tasty and appealing.” I bet they’ll choose the chocolate milk, even if it is lower in fat and sugar.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Low Carb to Low Carbon-Catering to Your Health

Vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, high-protein and pleas to “keep it light.”

Do these sound like special diet requests from health-conscious restaurant patrons? Well, you got the patron part right. But these are increasingly common comments from clients who work with professional caterers to plan a party or meals for business meetings.

Lance Hagen, sous chef for A Legendary Event, one of Atlanta’s most popular and busiest catering companies, says, “We certainly don’t see a lot of call for classic French dining these days. Our customers want menus designed around healthier world cuisines such as Asian and Mediterranean.”

And forget the "rubber chicken circuit" of disappointing banquet meals. From corporate events to weddings, caterers are expected to deliver restaurant-quality meals, from a really good restaurant.

For instance, chicken entrees on A Legendary Event’s catering menus change with the season, such as spring's pan-seared organic herb marinated chicken breast with fava beans, roasted yellow peppers and a rainbow of mixed microgreens.

Hagen says, “We like to showcase produce from Southern regional farms. I like to say it’s our own private little California.”

Even desserts are getting a healthy makeover.

Next to the chocolate fountains and cheesecake bites; lighter versions of sweet treats are being added to please health-conscious palates. Legendary’s pastry chef, Brittany Wright, created a lower-calorie panna cotta by using more gelatin in the recipe, and serves it with fresh berries and a sliver of dark chocolate to match the glamour of richer desserts.

Serve something green
Today’s definition of what’s "healthy" increasingly includes what’s healthy for the planet, too.

When Laura Turner Seydel and the staff of the Captain Planet Foundation plan events to support their work educating people about ways to protect the environment, caterers have to make the “going green” cut, too.

At a recent party held at Seydel’s home in Atlanta, the dining room table was set with elegant bites of goat cheese lollipops, deviled eggs with smoked salmon, crab mini quiche and organic butternut squash empanadas.

Caterer Frank Bragg of Radial Cafe even made sure the display included sustainable principles: “We used a stack of cardboard egg cartons topped with glass to present the devilled eggs. It’s a touch of whimsy, but it’s also a way to reuse and repurpose the egg cartons.”

Bragg, whose company motto is “Small Carbon Footprint, Big Local Flavor,” has been on the forefront of “green catering” since he began his company in 1999.

He says happily organic and other sustainable ingredients are easier to find today, “but you still have to plan ahead. I have one Georgia honey producer who reminded me that her product was available only seasonally, so I have to buy when it’s available and stock up. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it when you find such a beautiful product.”

The challenge to please clients no matter what they want and no matter what the circumstance is nothing new in the catering business.

Tony Conway, owner and founder of A Legendary Event, says he’s always had to work with Mother Nature: “She’s one of our favorite guests. Snow, rain, wind, heat or cold, she’s always right there with us as we prep, pack, load and unload.”

Now with the increased visibility for organic, just picked, locally grown and farm-fresh foods on catering menus, Mother Nature is guaranteed an invitation to even more parties, but now she's welcome to join the table.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lost and Found: Losing Weight and Terrific Finds

The battle of the bulge just might be won through small victories-- one portion, one pound and one pair of shoes at a time! While the major health benefits of achieving a healthy weight include reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis; relatively minor and unexpected changes may provide the day to day motivation needed to maintain weight loss. Dieters sharing thoughts on the Calorie Count pages of About.com listed “Being able to walk in heels a lot longer and a lot easier” and “I can now wear regular-width shoes” among the happy side effects found after losing weight.
Dietitian Marsha Hudnall, of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women’s wellness retreat in Ludlow, Vermont says, “The rewards go beyond the numbers on the scale. Women tell us they sleep more soundly, have more energy and feel better when they begin to eat more healthfully and learn how to be physically active again.” Hudnall spoke in Atlanta recently at the American Dietetic Association’s annual symposium for registered dietitians who work in the field of weight management.
2011 James Beard Award nominated Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene spoke to the dietitians about the importance of teaching clients simple ways to add healthy flavor to foods by demonstrating an easy recipe for citrus vinaigrette, “I use fresh lemon in everything. It’s a gift along with fresh parsley and cracked black pepper.” This got me thinking about more examples of “lost and found”- such as losing the habit of adding too much salt or sugar to foods and finding flavors in healthy ingredients. Hopkins deftly cut up a whole organic chicken and tossed the carcass in a pot of water with bits of carrots, celery and onion to quickly create the beginnings of a chicken stock; another healthy kitchen staple, “Chill the stock and the fat rises to the surface. Then skim it off and you’ve got a fat free stock to add flavor to cooked vegetables or grains or make a soup.” But, Hopkins did present a plea to the dietitians on behalf of bacon and his southern food heritage, “I never want to feel that I’m denied. If you take away bacon you take my grandfather away from me.” Not to worry Chef Hopkins or other bacon lovers.
State of the art nutrition guidance from weight management experts includes advice to be mindful when eating by savoring the flavors you love. Another example of ‘lost and found’; lose the notion that eating healthy excludes all forms of fat, sugar and salt and find ways to add a just a bit of sweet, salty and rich ingredients to liven up recipes. For instance, a pinch of salt is only an eighth of a teaspoon. One more tip from Hopkins, “I use Kosher and sea salt exclusively in the kitchen. Season a little at the beginning not just at the end and you won’t need as much.”
While television weight loss competition programs such as “The Biggest Loser” focus on the numbers on a scale as the single sign contestants are heading toward healthier bodies, success can be measured in many other ways.

Lost Weight and Found Surprising Benefits

-I've noticed that as my fingers shrink the diamond in my engagement ring is getting larger!
-My shoes don't wear out as fast (except my gym shoes!)
-Getting in and out of small car easier. I feel much more agile.
- Discovering that I like veggies!
-I am able to jump around and dance and be goofy with my kids.
-I've been told I look anywhere from 10-20 yrs younger than I did when I was heavier.
-So much more energy!
(Compiled from comments posted on About.com Calorie Count page)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Into Action

Green is the color of the month with ‘the wearing of the green’ for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Atlanta lawns sprouting soft new grass and Spring Break signaling the start of bathing suit season which encourages body conscious diners to add more greens to the menu. Famously clad in green, Peter Pan’s in town this month too flying high over the production of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan at Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta. Add to that the focus on adding a variety of colorful foods to your diet for National Nutrition Month this March and I’ve got lots of inspiration to go green in today’s column on healthy eating. Even my kitchen’s painted two kinds of green: Acadia Green and Cedar Green by Benjamin Moore.
Anyone who’s ever flipped through a color wheel when choosing the right shade to paint a wall knows that there’s more than one tint and the same goes for the many shades of green in the food world and the nutrition each hue holds within. From dark green kale to golden green avocado to light green celery, Dr. David Heber, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles reveals a rainbow of health benefits in his book, What Color is Your Diet? He singles out the green family of fruits and vegetables as important in two primary areas; promoting healthy vision and reducing cancer risk. No, this does not include green beer unless you’ve colored it green with wheat grass juice.
How Green is Your Menu?
My pre-show dinner with friends at Glenn’s Kitchen before we dashed across Centennial Olympic Park to see Peter Pan was a study in healthy green choices. You can start with fried green tomatoes, move on to The Kitchen Sink Salad which tosses in chopped greens, celery, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and green peppers or enjoy the Farmer’s Market Pasta with spinach and artichoke hearts. There’s even a green theme on the cocktail menu. The Glenntini is made with cucumber-infused vodka, fresh mint and lime juice.
Your Plate Should Wear More Green
The many shades of green nutrition:
Fruit: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as arugula, water cress, spinach, kale, collards and fresh mint or basil leaves.

Yellowy Green.
These foods are rich sources of plant nutrients called carotenoids including the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to eye health and reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Examples: spinach and other greens, green peas and avocados.
Dark Green.
These foods contain the healthy compounds sulforaphane, isothiocyanate, and indoles, which Heber says break down cancer-causing chemicals. Examples: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Bok Choy and kale.
Light Green.
These foods contain flavonoids that protect cell membranes. Examples: spring onions, celery, pears, endive, and chives.

When green’s not a good thing.
Never eat potatoes that are green below the skin. This green color indicates the presence of a bitter tasting toxin called solanine which is toxic even in small amounts and can cause nausea and headaches. Solanine, which is naturally in potatoes as the plant’s defense against insects, increases in concentration when potatoes are stored in warm temperatures or exposed to light.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Step this way: Sleek and Sassy

Oh my! This is the perfect shoe for staying on your diet in style. Christian Louboutin's "Measuring Tape" sandal is fabulous!! But, at $795 I think I'll have to skip dining out and grocery shopping for a few weeks. So they DO help you cut calories!!
Maybe I can attach a couple of fabric store tape measures to a pair of black sandals and create my own "dieter's delight" whimsical shoe. It's the official shoe of "The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!" www.carolynoneil.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Baby You Can Drive My Car....to the healthiest menus

For National Nutrition Month..........
I wish there was a GPS system for navigating food choices. Let’s say your meal plan for the day directed you to consume 2000 calories nicely mapped out to include breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of snacks. But, then you decided to veer off course and grab a couple of mid-morning donuts and a cappuccino. The GPS voice would loudly announce, “Recalculating! Recalculating!” All of a sudden, your edible journey is re-routed to skip the afternoon snack and dessert at dinnertime might disappear, too. This kind of a GPS system- I’ll call it Good Plate Sense – might also reward you for taking a sensible short cut when available such as skipping the cheese slices on your burger at lunch which shaves off about 100 calories. “Recalculating! When you arrive at the dinner destination, you can add a glass of wine.”
Write it if you bite it.
Keeping track of food intake including what you eat, drink and how much of each can be a hassle. But, research shows that spending a little time on self-monitoring adds up to significant gains in weight control success according to a review of 15 studies on dietary self-monitoring in weight loss research programs. The results published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found associations in all of the studies between recording what you eat and weight loss. Some weight loss subjects used paper diet diaries to write down their food intake and some used electronic PDA diaries or internet based diaries; but the review found no difference in the amount of weight lost between groups. They did find that the dieters with the PDA diaries were more likely to keep up with daily food intake recordings, but it didn’t affect the weight loss overall. That’s good to know if don’t have a fancy PDA and have to write down what you eat on the back of an envelope or the restaurant receipt.

Are we there yet?
Keeping track of what you eat helps you know when to say ‘when’. Even if it’s not printed on the menu, most chain restaurants share nutrition information on their websites which you can access from a smart phone when dining out. For instance, if you know your daily calorie cap is 2000, then it’s easy pretty easy to figure out that ordering the full rack of baby back ribs at Outback Steakhouse which contains a little over 1,500 calories doesn’t leave you much room for other meals that day! Outback’s Interactive Nutritional Menu Tool on the company’s website helps you steer toward leaner choices such as the 9 ounce steak with a side of green beans for less than 500 calories. Brian Castrucci, Director of Maternal and Child Health within the Georgia Department of Community Health says the nutrition information on the menus at IHOP affected what and how much he ordered, “I saved 50 calories by choosing ham instead of bacon and 500 calories by saying no to a stack of three more pancakes. I never would have thought it would impact my eating habits, until I saw it impact my eating habits.” A recent study by the New York City Department of Health showed that 15% of fast-food patrons in the city who use nutrition information posted in restaurants eat an average of 106 fewer calories than those who ignore the calorie content. I believe access to nutrition information helps us plan our journey just as a car’s GPS system tells us how many miles to go before we get to our final destination.

Fast Foods: The Best and the Worst: MyFoxATLANTA.com

Monday, February 28, 2011

Kids' Menus and Kid-Sized Plates

Deep fried chicken fingers, burgers and mac ‘n cheese are the usual food finds on children’s menus. But, a nationwide focus on obesity is prompting more chefs and restaurant owners to add healthier choices to kids’ menus. They are hungry for ideas.
At a recent Southeast Regional Conference of the American Culinary Federation held in Atlanta, I presented the basics on childhood nutrition and meal planning along with some comments on menu choices around the city. For instance, at Marlow’s Tavern families can start with a platter of raw vegetables and humus and parents can order their brood mini-burgers or kid-sized versions of entrees such as grilled salmon with a side of fresh fruit. Instead of sodas, ask for a blend of sparkling water with 100% fruit juice. Low fat or non fat milk is always a great choice too!
More restaurants are willing to serve smaller portions that fit smaller appetites; and that’s for all age groups! Another good trend for good nutrition, eateries are offering whole grain pastas and pizza crusts. California Pizza Kitchen has recently added a multi-grain penne pasta to their menu. Wherever you dine with the kids, watch out for the 3 “B”s: the bread, butter and beverages you consume before you get your meal can pile on 100’s of extra calories.

What Kids Need Children are not just small adults when it comes to nutrition. For instance, under age two, they still need the essential fatty acids in whole milk to ensure proper brain development.
After that the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend skim, 1 % or 2 % milk to get kids the calcium they need for strong bones without the added fat and calories they don’t need. More restaurants today offer low fat milk and skim. Growing kids need a variety of nutrients so it’s important that their daily calorie quota comes from a variety of sources.
Here’s the daily meal plan recommended for an active child: Active is considered 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day
1600 calories
Grain Group- 5 ounces (1ounce= slice of bread, ½ cup rice or 1 small roll)
Vegetable Group- 2 cups
Fruit Group – 1 ½ cups
Milk Group - 2 cups (1 cup = 1 cup milk, 2 pieces of string cheese or 1 cup yogurt)
Meat and Beans Group – 5 ounces (1 ounce = slice of cheese, ¼ cup beans or 1 ounce meat)

Small Measures How small is small enough when choosing restaurant portions for kids? Buying the small order of fries for the small fry in the family may actually be too large if you’re trying to follow the latest advice on childhood nutrition. A typical small sized order of fast food French fries contains about 230 calories and includes around 30 fries. If you’re counting these potatoes as a vegetable for your child; just 10 fries are considered a serving. Eating more protein than they need is common for American kids, too. Dr. Margaret Condrasky, professor of food science and nutrition at Clemson University, informed chefs attending the culinary meeting, “Adult males need only about 60 grams of protein per day. So children need far less. That’s why a proper portion for children can be two or three ounces of meat.” Condrasky added that kid-friendly foods such as peanut butter on whole wheat bread, macaroni and cheese as well as Mexican beans and rice offer vegetable sources of good quality protein for children, too.

The secret to seeking the best children’s menus at restaurants wherever you dine today may be to find the staff most willing to split adult sized entrees for the family to share or to serve just part of an entrée or pasta dish to a child and box up the rest in a take out container to enjoy at another meal.