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.