Friday, December 28, 2012

Healthy & Tasty Air Travel Trends

Daughter Katie is a master travel ninja with great carry-on style and savvy.


 Holiday air travel is notoriously challenging with throngs of passengers populating security lines, dealing with winter weather delays, jostling with fellow fliers to stow carry-ons, accepting an airline snack mix and eventually making it to their destinations.

Add hunger to the travel quotient and you’re really in for some unexpected turbulence. Happily there’s a renaissance in airport restaurant menus. I’ve been impressed with kiosks selling really good salads and sandwiches packaged to fly, sit down restaurants with freshly prepared foods and concourse newsstands with a nice selection of healthy snacks (even crudité of vegetables in the cooler with the bottled water.) And low and behold, if a sweet splurge is what it takes to make your travel day more bearable, A Piece of Cake has just landed on concourse A at Hartsfield –Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Now you can be the envy of the exit row while savoring a slice of red velvet cake with a carton of cold milk (fat free, there must be some digression). Atlanta based caterer Proof of the Pudding serves up on-the-go salads and sandwiches at two locations on concourse B and Wolfgang Puck’s (with locations in many US airports) kiosk is on concourse C.
The menus at E Bar on concourse E and A Bar on concourse A feature a terrific selection of cheeses and charcuterie with olives and whole grain crackers. Warning: fellow passengers will be impressed with your gourmet savvy so share a little.

Navigate Nutritiously
-Ask for OJ. The nutrients in orange juice help boost your immune system to give you a fighting chance to ward off cold and flu germs. Mix juice with sparkling water for a lower calorie thirst quencher.

- Snack Smart. Bag your own “sky trail mix” of nuts, dried fruit and granola. Sunbelt Bakery Granola is one of my favorites and is an excellent source of fiber. Healthy fats in nuts and stomach filling fiber in  dried fruit and cereals keep you keep going and if you make your own mixes they can be much lower in sodium than the airline’s salty snack mixes. Sodium plus sitting can lead to unwanted puffiness and ankle swelling.

-Easy Carry-on Cuisine. Granola bars and fruit & nut bars are easy to carry and even easier to eat when on the fly. Make sure to choose bars that just the right portion size; say under 150 calories. Sunbelt Bakery chocolate chip granola bars contain just 140 calories. 

- Concourse Cuisine. A salad is fine, but make sure it contains protein, such as chicken, turkey, ham, eggs or cheese to keep blood sugar on an even keel. Stress can drive blood sugar levels down way below normal.

Flight attendant! No, we are not dipping into our duty free vodka! 

- Alcohol at altitude. Your skin and your brain can get really dehydrated in a pressurized cabin. Alcohol accelerates dehydration. If it’s the end of long travel day and you want a drink to unwind, that’s fine. But make sure to double up on water with the wine.
Food on the Fly
Airport security rules prohibit liquids and “gel type substances” in carry-on luggage if over 3.4 ounces. (I always try to travel with a container of Greek yogurt but it usually ends up in the TSA trash.) Solid foods such as sandwiches, hard cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables are allowed.
Holiday travelers take note that TSA rules state, “You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.” (Especially if it looks like a really good dessert.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Healthy Holiday Snacking



Carolyn with Tracye Hutchins of CBS Better Morning Atlanta 


Ok, so the online power shopping you did this week was more fingertip than physical so you’re burning fewer calories than battling crowds at the mall.  Stressful hours spent in airports or on the highway often mean grabbing fast food on the fly or snacking in the car to keep boredom at bay. The holiday season is here and presents many challenges to eat right and stay fit. So, this may not seem like the most ideal time to start a healthier eating plan- but it can be.
Ask yourself, "Is it really any different from the rest of the year?" Every
season brings its own temptations from Super Bowl Sunday's nachos and beer to Fourth of July’s fried chicken and ribs. The best time to learn slimming strategies is when the landscape is fat with indulgent food choices.
Every Day’s a Holiday
Research shows that the most successful dieters — those who lose weight and
keep it off for the long haul — practice healthy eating and exercise habits all
year long. They don't make big New Year’s diet resolutions. Instead, set
a time limit or portion limit. "I'll eat fries only once a month." Or
"I'll eat ice cream in a small bowl." Or a holiday version, “I’ll enjoy a big dinner out with the relatives, but I’ll have a bowl of soup for lunch.” 

Healthy snacks are a Tasty Trio: protein, whole grains and fruit or vegetable

Healthy Holidays
There's no time like the present to begin new healthier eating habits even if you're headed to a party tonight.  Help your hips survive the holidays.

 Parties Galore and what they wore! Carolyn and her Atlanta gal pals ring in the holiday season. 


 1. Freshen up your food life. Keep fresh fruit and other healthy snacks such as whole-grain crackers, granola bars, nuts and fresh veggies on hand. 
Sunbelt Bakery chocolate chip granola bars are only 140 calories - perfect portion size! 


A handful of pecans or almonds before heading out to a party or dinner can calm your appetite so you don't dive in the minute you arrive. Look for healthier options on restaurant menus. While a friend chowed down on the bone marrow topped with quail eggs at The Spence the other night; I was delighted with a lighter plate of ravioli stuffed with wild greens and served with a small amount of pulled pork.
2. Recognize barriers. It's going to be tough to say no to holiday favorites
like chocolate fudge and that creamy cheesy hot artichoke dip. Know your
splurge foods and resolve to enjoy them in small quantities. Use a small plate
to serve yourself. Research shows that your mind will think it looks like a lot
more food than the same amount on a large plate. 

Martini glasses are the perfect size for a perfect portion of yogurt topped with granola and fresh berries.


3. Enjoy the taste of eating right. Deviled eggs, steamed shrimp, roast beef and chicken on skewers often served at holiday dinner parties are all diet-friendly, lean protein choices. Feel free to add low-cal flavor with mustards, horseradish, cocktail sauce and salsas. Look for lighter versions of holiday faves such as low fat eggnog. 


 4. Start new habits. Keep a list of what you're eating and drinking for a few
days. Be as specific as possible on types of foods and amounts. This snapshot will help you keep track of overeating. Write down your physical activity. Did you take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall? That counts, too!

5. Have a plan. Eat breakfast. Schedule time to take a walk or go to yoga
class. If you're going to a potluck, bring the salad or vegetable side dish. If it's a three-hour car ride to Grandma's, pack fresh fruit and a
turkey sandwich so you don't have to stop at a fast food joint.
Save the calories to enjoy holiday treats when you get to Grandma's. Successful
long-term weight control is a balancing act.

Keep in mind that most people gain about one pound over the holidays. 
That doesn't sound like much, but if you don't lose it, 
after 10 years that's 10 pounds.
My Christmas Wish: to work out with Richard Simmons again!!



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Culinary Cocktails with Healthy Punch


“Hey who took my basil?” a chef might complain and the answer could be the bartender. Restaurants are raising the bar on the culinary offerings on cocktails menus with a ‘farm to table’ philosophy filling glassware, too.

The Hummingbird Cocktail at The Old Edwards Inn: vodka, broccoli, pea shoots and a dash of local honey.



Mixologist Thomas Keenan created 5 wellness cocktails for Old Edwards Inn

“The demand for fresh, seasonal food from the kitchen carries over to the bar,” notes
Nancy Kruse, Atlanta based menu trends analyst and contributor to Nation’s Restaurant News.  At Ammazza fresh basil is just as likely to end up in a crafted cocktail as on their Napoletana-style wood fired pizzas.  At Holeman & Finch Public House, mixologists are masters at blending bits of citrus and a hint of honey in cocktails with intriguing names such as “She” made with mescal, dry curacao liqueur, grapefruit, lime and tonic.
The cocktail menu at The Optimist raids the kitchen too with potent potables such as the gin based “Mother of Pearl” spiced with celery salt, black pepper, fennel frond and celery leaf.
The high art of high balls made with produce and herbs is perhaps best displayed at chef Grant Achatz’s TheAviary in Chicago where bartenders give cocktails four-star restaurant attention as they whisk, whir, stir, foam and shake spirits in what they call “a state-of-the-art drink kitchen.”  There’s even an ice chef on staff to create just the right cube, ball, shard or snow to compliment the cocktail. 
Drink Your Vegetables
A collection of culinary cocktails is on the menu with spa treatments at The Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina. So instead of herbal tea or lemon infused spring water, spa goers can sip refreshing blends of beet juice, broccoli, cucumber, herbs and edible flowers with a little kick from vodka, tequila, rum, brandy or moonshine. Because the drinks are made with vitamin and antioxidant rich fresh fruit and vegetables they could be considered a health and beauty treatment and each drink calls for only an ounce or ounce and half of spirits, “We are trying to focus on flavor and nutrition with less alcohol,” says executive chef Johannes Klapdohr.
Farm to Bar Table

To Your Health
Since these hand-crafted and often pretty pricy cocktails are meant to be sipped and savored in a sophisticated setting registered dietitians like the trend because it encourages moderation in alcohol consumption. Dietitian Rachel Begun, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says they’re drinks with benefits, “Cocktails made from fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs do deliver nutrients and are better options than drinks made from processed mixers both from a taste and nutrition perspective.” 
Drink Your Beets
There’s even a research study from the U.S.D.A’s Agricultural Research Service Department that shows treating strawberries and blackberries with alcohol boosts the fruit’s antioxidant activity.
Registered dietitian Cynthia Chandler is serving a holiday herb cocktail at her Thanksgiving Day feast made with tequila, lime juice and fresh sage, “Sage is a member of the mint family and is one of the oldest herbs used for both culinary and medicinal purposes and sage has been used to help digest heavy meals.” So here’s a toast to your health to help kick off the holiday season.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Balancing Act of Great Food and Good Nutrition





Nobody’s perfect, and that’s especially true when it comes to eating a healthy well balanced diet. “All these years and we still know that balance, variety and moderation are the keys to good nutrition and that includes enjoying occasional splurges,” says dietitian Jill Melton, editor of Relish Magazine. Melton and more than eight thousand nutrition expert colleagues meeting at The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference in Philadelphia gathered to learn the latest research and sample the best new healthy food products.


How to find a happy balance between healthy living and enjoying great foods was the focus of a series of lively panel discussions held in the spacious and welcoming Nestlé́ exhibit booth designed to look and feel like a home.  Dietitians gathered around an oversized dining room table and spilled into the aisles to listen to leading nutrition experts and expert observers talk about the challenges of promoting nutrition through the lifecycle from infancy to the elderly.  Invited by Nestlé́, I served as the moderator for four fast-paced 20-minute chats and – woah – did I learn a lot!  First off - Nestlé́ is the world’s largest food company with a commitment to nutrition, health and wellness. 

Good Food, Good Life
Nestlé́’s headquarters is in Switzerland and is most associated worldwide with their wonderful chocolate. But did you know that Nestlé́ USA develops and distributes so many other popular leading brands including Lean Cuisine, Stouffers, Buitoni, Libby’s Pumpkin, Juicy Juice and Carnation Breakfast Essentials? Nestlé́ Waters hydrates and quenches the thirst of millions with such iconic brands as Perrier, Acqua Panna and S. Pellegrino, as well as Nestlé́ Pure Life purified bottled waters in the U.S. 
Nutrition Numero Uno
I learned more about the broad reach and respect for the Nestlé́ Nutrition Institute (NNI), too. NNI shares state-of-the-art science-based information and education with nutrition and health experts all over the world. And while most of us are familiar with their consumer brands – including childhood faves Ovaltine and Nesquik – Nestlé́ Health Science works with nutrition professionals to offer products for people with special health needs such as Boost, the nutritional supplement beverage for seniors who need a boost of protein, vitamins and minerals. 
Nestlé́ Professional, serving healthcare institutions, restaurants and schools, offers unique services, balanced products and valuable resources for the food pros specializing in away from home eating experiences.
Start Healthy – Stay Healthy
Now that you’ve glimpsed the scope of the company’s core mission to help people start healthy and stay healthy throughout life – here are some highlights from the hot topics of Nestlé́’s nutrition panels held during the 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition held in Philadelphia.

Healthy Hydration
Officially titled “Nourishing Healthy Living: Nutrition Throughout the lifecycle, including healthy aging, super foods and balanced eating,” this panel discussion got right to the heart of the matter – how nutrition can make a difference in the support of good health throughout the lifespan - from infancy to the elderly to support wellness and when we’re not that well to help nurture us back to health.  
Each of the dietitians on the panel are experts in working with the elderly and in medical care settings so have been on the front lines of seeing health declines in patients that could have been prevented. One of the simplest yet most important observations is that many elderly patients are dehydrated.

"Some elderly people don't know they're thirsty and can end up in the emergency room by not being hydrated, which affects brain function," says Carol Siegel, MS, RD, Head of Medical Affairs, Nestlé́ Healthcare Nutrition. Another challenge - the elderly are more at risk of dehydration because their mobility problems may discourage them from drinking water (they might not be able to run to the restroom!) and due to physiological changes.  

"The body becomes dryer as you get older," says Val Wendel, MS, RD, LDN, Healthcare Channel Sales Manager, Nestlé́ Professional. Adding more nutrition to hydration – as with Boost beverages and Trio soups – can offer a solution. Wendel says, "Fortified soups and beverages provide an excellent source of nutrients and hydration." 
Easy To Swallow Solutions
Simply sipping soup and enjoying a cool glass of water is a big challenge for folks with swallowing problems that may be caused by stroke or as a side effect of radiation. "Swallowing difficulties can increase the risk for malnutrition,” says Maureen Huhmann, DCN, RD, CSO Manager, Clinical Sciences, Nestlé́ Nutrition.
Huhmann, a specialist in oncology nutrition, described how the odorless starch-based thickener called Resource Thicken Up Clear is used to thicken liquids to help patients with dysphagia (swallowing problems).
Drink Up Before School Kids!
Kids are vulnerable to dehydration too. In fact, "64% of kids go to school dehydrated,” says Carol Savage, MS, RD, Manager, Beverages Division, Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Nestlé́ USA. So when you send the kids off to school, whether on the school bus or when helping them put on the seat belt in the car, hand them a bottle of water or a container of Juicy Juice. By the way, milk hydrates, too – even chocolate milk.
Think About Your Drink
The take home from this panel of nutrition experts: dietitians care about keeping folks healthy and hydrated and a lot of the solutions are pretty simple – and tasty! You just have to know the power of proper hydration to think about your drink.
Nestlé́ products like Nestlé́ Pure Life help address a hydration deficit occurring in the elderly and in kids," says Chavanne Hanson, MPH, RD, LD, Nestlé́ USA Wellness Champion.

Mindful Eating
The second panel was packed with nutrition experts, including Dr. Barbara Rolls, Penn State University Nutritional Sciences Guthrie Chair, Dr. Wahida Karmally, dietitian and Director of Nutrition, Columbia University and Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington. Diving into the discussion about nutrition, cognition and mindful eating, Dr. Karmally, whose research focuses on pediatric nutrition, shared this important fact,
"Eating habits are established in the first 6 years of child's life.”

And while most everyone agrees that nutrition is key to proper growth of body and mind, Dr. Karmally says the reality reveals big improvements are needed. “One in eight kids miss breakfast!”

In a hurry? I remember my mom giving me Carnation Instant Breakfast as I ran to catch the school bus. My favorite flavor is strawberry. I was always late because I couldn’t decide what to wear.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Carnation Breakfast Essentials offers a great breakfast substitute,” says Wendy Johnson-Askew, PhD, RD, MPH, Director, Public Policy, Nestlé́ Nutrition.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner – what family meals look like today is the research focus of Dr. Drewnowski, who says, “The family meal is evolving.”  That means the balancing act of sitting around the kitchen table versus running off to sports practices and all of the other dinner time distractions is shaping the family meal today. 

The good news is that Dr. Rolls, author of “The Ultimate VolumetricsDiet”, wants parents to know that the balancing act of good nutrition can include occasional splurges. “You can eat anything in moderation,” She says.  And snacking is AOK in her book, too. “Find your healthy snacking pattern.”

Foods for the Future
What’s really a lot of fun is when discussions about nutrition burst into enthusiasm about great tasting, healthy foods. Leading the surge in discussing Foods for the Future, Lucien Vendôme, Director of Culinary Operations for Nestlé́ Prepared Foods says “We must all be passionate about nutrition.”  Vendôme, who is the creative genius behind the recipe development for Lean Cuisine, Buitoni and Stouffer’s Frozen foods, shared that frozen foods offer a tasty, nutritious and convenient solution for busy folks and families. 

Registered dietitian Jill Melton, blogger and editor of Relish Magazine, notes, “We are a microwave generation.” So it’s good news when food companies such as Nestlé́ stock the grocer’s freezer with delicious and nutritious microwavable options.
Melton, who was one of the founding editors of Cooking Light Magazine, observed that the word ‘light’ used to have a stigma; folks just assumed light foods wouldn’t be as good. But today that’s changed, and light eating is appealing and sought after.
Have Some Fun
Teaching the next generation to balance lighter choices with fun ‘splurge foods’ is an important goal for foods for the future.  And the lessons begin very early.
“The hardest transition for babies is from baby food to table food. Eating patterns begin to form at 18 months, and are set at two years of age,” notes Wendy Johnson-Askew, PhD, RD, MPH, Director, Public Policy, Nestlé́ Nutrition. Johnson-Askew also noted that one-third of kids’ calories come from snacks, so those snack choices should count towards good nutrition.

Balanced Eating
In the final panel, we get closer to ‘wear the rubber meets the road’ so to speak and that of course is the power of portion control, taste, enjoyment and the pleasures of the table.

While one of the USDA’s current nutrition messages to combat obesity is “Enjoy your food, but eat less,” Dr. Barbara Rolls, professor of nutrition at Penn State University, argues that the message should be to eat more of certain foods to fill up the plate. “People tend to eat a consistent amount of food. If you tell them to just eat less they don’t like it because they don’t want a plate that’s half empty.” Dr. Rolls’ research shows that eating more foods – which are higher in water content such as fruits, vegetables and soups - adds volume to the plate and satiety to support weight management.  

Easy Veggies
Making it easier to get more vegetables into meals, frozen vegetables and frozen entrees that include veggies offer simple solutions for complicated modern days.

“I always recommend mixing prepared foods with fresh foods,” says Katherine Brooking, RD, blogger, author, media personality and founder of Appetite for Health.  Blogger Colleen Padilla, known as Classy Mommy, says “Moms are always looking for more convenience.”

And with taste and style in mind Kristen Colapinto, blogger at Social Vixen, suggests, “One trick I use is taking prepared food out of their packages and placing on a plate to make it seem more presentable.”  I love this idea! Especially because I have a passion for pretty plates and even collect them at yard sales. Treat yourself and set a pretty table even when you’re smart to save time by choosing delicious frozen entrees.
Write it if you bite it!
Helping people keep track of what they’re eating and how much was discussed, and Katherine Brooking emphasized the power of the pen and recommends her nutrition minded clients keep a daily food journal. After a week they get a snap shot of where those extra calories may be coming from.  I say “if you bite it, write it.”
Dietitian Chavanne Hanson, MPH, RD, LD, Nestlé́ USA Wellness Champion, sums it up very nicely, “Pleasures, balance and understanding are core pillars of what Nestlé́ wants to convey to the marketplace.”
So, the delicious lesson learned  (and echoed throughout the four nutrition expert panels for Nestlé́) is to find a happy balance in your food life – seeking healthier options for every day and enjoying occasional splurges. Oh, and don’t forget to drink some water!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pleasures of Pantelleria


In the salted caper room at Bonomo and Giglio on Pantelleria

 One of my favorite ingredients – whether sprinkled on pizza, tossed into a salad or paired with olive oil and lemon to adorn grilled fish – are capers.  Slightly sweet, mostly salty with a tangy bite capers add a bright note to many dishes.  
Caper plants clinging to the earth bound for Bonomo and Giglio 


Capers are the unopened flower buds of bushy plants that cling to stonewalls or are cultivated close to the ground. On the tiny Italian island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily just 36 miles from the coast of North Africa, the volcanic soil and Mediterranean sun produce high quality capers prized for their flavor. “They are the best capers and I like them because they are cured in salt and not pickled,” says chef Piero Premoli of Pricci Restaurant. Premoli is featuring a menu of Sicilian dishes throughout October including a cured tuna with capers and the region’s classic caponata stew with eggplant and capers.
Olives, tomatoes, onions, basil and olive oil love in Pantelleria


Pleasures of Pantelleria 
If you haven’t been to Pantelleria or even heard of it, join the club.  I was invited by a non-profit food and nutrition organization called Old WaysPreservation and Exchange Trust to join a group of writers and culinary experts for a symposium to discover the island’s uniquely healthy food and lifestyle habits.  
It's a desert out there. The island of Pantelleria gets very little rain fall. 


The rocky island is pummeled by the wind forcing olive trees, grape vines and caper bushes to lie low growing outward not upward. Citrus trees are cradled in walled gardens to protect the fruit.
“There’s still a little magic out there,” says Phil Meldrum of Food Match a specialty foods importer attending the symposium. “When you find something with a taste particular to that area it gives me goose bumps.”
 Pantelleria capers on freshly caught swordfish makes me swoon. 

Stone cliffs, stonewalls, stone buildings, and piles of stone create a harsh landscape surrounded by the crashing sea. Minimal rain means cactus blooms and bougainvillea blooms offer the only color. 


“It was frozen in time,” says dietitian Sharon Palmer, author of The Plant Powered Diet, “We had very little red meat. It’s primarily a plant based diet that’s nutritionally really balanced with carbs from pastas, healthy fats from almonds, olives and olive oil and dishes flavored with herbs, fennel and capers.”  
Sharon Palmer and I enjoying 'studying' nutrition on Pantelleria.
Other common cooking ingredients included eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. Since cows were not a traditional part of farm life here, there is very little cheese and pasta dishes and potatoes are sprinkled with seasoned bread crumbs instead of parmesan.  
Just so you believe me. Pantescans add breadcrumbs to pasta.
Palmer notes, “We had traditional dishes handed down through the generations in an isolated farming environment so we had what they have there.” 
Even though there is a tradition of sweet cookies made in intricate patterns and shapes, the principal sweetener is made from reducing grape juice not refined sugar. 

“It’s nice that the healthiest traditional eating patterns happen to be the most delicious,” says Sara Baer-Sinnott, President of Oldways.   

Mediterranean Medicine
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet – rich in vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seafood and olive oil - are well documented. Dietitian Kathy McManus, Director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston says, “Since this diet is not low in fat people enjoy the foods more, lose more weight and they tend to eat more vegetables because they can add olive oil.”  The Mediterranean lifestyle leads to longevity, too. 
Olive oil contains more than healthy fats, it's rich in plant nutrients and antioxidants to promote good health.

Ligia Dominguez, MD of the University of Palermo says, “We want an active life in old age not frailty. The Mediterranean diet is high in antioxidants which can add years to your life and life to your years.”
Dominguez says being “kissed” by the sun for at least 15 minutes a day boosts vitamin D levels naturally and getting enough sleep is important too. “I took a nap every day in Pantelleria,” admits Baer-Sinnot, “It’s the joy of resting to reduce stress.”
Grape harvest bonanza during my stay on Pantelleria.