Monday, January 31, 2011

The Vampire Diet

When it came to fad diets, I thought I had seen them all - from the Atkins Diet, to the Cabbage Soup Diet, to the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet.  But, lo and behold, in my quest to find the truly new and unique in culinary trends, I ran across The Vampire Diet (from a site called  "Keeping Fit", 9/1/10). 

Obsessed with The Twilight Series and all things "vampire", there is a group out there whose followers eat only red foods.  The author of the article I read on this eclectic cuisine complained that it was an unbalanced diet.  He listed the red foods he could think of, and looking at his list, I had to agree.  But ,the more I thought about it, the more I realized that one could do pretty well on a "red" diet.  They would be getting more than their share of lycopene - that's for sure! (Don't know what lycopene is?  You must check out my next Blog on everyone's favorite foods - vegetables!).   Back to the Vampire Diet, the proponents of it would certainly be eating healthier foods than many school districts see fit to feed our kids (sorry - it's a pet peeve...).    So, in faithfulness to the rules of "redness", here's my stab at the Vampire Diet:

Fruits:  Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, watermelon, pomegranate, rhubarb, and cranberries (or their delicious and nutritious dried version "Craisins").
Vegetables:  Tomatoes, from beefsteak to cherry; red peppers, including my favorite, roasted red peppers; beets; red cabbage; and red kidney beans.
Beverages:  Cranberry juice and all its different variations, grenadine, rooibos tea, red wine, Bloody Mary's, tomatoe juice, V-8, and, maybe, Nestles strawberry milk.
Grains: Red quinoa
Meat and other proteins:  steak tartar, tuna sushi, tandoori chicken, and chicken paprikash
Other:  Borscht, Gazpacho soup and cherry sorbet

That's all I could think of.  I almost added red apples and red potatoes, but they aren't red when you peel them, so I wasn't sure they counted.  I think this diet is hilarious and I plan to make a meal in honor of it someday since I, too, am somewhat of a Vampire fan.  Since I was introduced to Bram Stoker's classic (Dracula) years ago, I have been intrigued by the likes of Interview With the Vampire, by Anne Rice, and Kostova's The Historian.   Of course, another requirement of the Vampire Diet is to avoid the sun, something I do not recommend, since sunshine is a good source of Vitamin D.    : )

I thought (and hoped) you would enjoy this.  If you can think of any more red foods, please share them with me.   I know I am leaving some out!   In the meantime, happy and healthy eating!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are You Big-Boned, Small-Boned, or In Between? Read This, and Calculate Your Frame Size. You May be Surprised!

When I was young, I always weighed more than most of my friends.  Not by any astronomical amount, but just enough to feel "different".  For example, when I was 10, they weighed about 80 pounds - I weighed over 100.  And whenever I told my mother that I wanted to watch my weight, she said that I had "big bones", that she and I both did.  She couldn't help it.  She had believed it about herself her entire life, and I was, after all, her daughter.  I think a lot of people who "carry their weight well" (i.e., evenly proportioned no matter how heavy they are) have been led to believe that they have big bones.  Sadly, for many of us, it is just a lie.  I believed that I had big bones until about 9 years ago, when I learned how to calculate my frame size.  I have to be honest that I was not exactly shocked when I discovered that, not only was I not big-boned, I almost had a small frame!

I Should have figured that out years earlier.  After all, there were several times after I reached my full height of 5' 6" (happened at 13 years old) that I would drop 20 or so pounds, and I looked great.  But, because I had terrible eating habits, I would always eventually gain the weight back, lose it again, gain it back, etc.   It's a cycle that I know many of you can relate to.  But it is not one you have to be a slave to anymore.   

Today I will do two things for you.  First I will teach you the easiest method of determining how much you should weigh.  And, in conjunction with it, I will teach you how to determine if you are small, medium, or big-boned.   The Hamwi method for calculating ideal body weight is very easy and is pretty accurate when you take your frame-size into consideration.  It goes like this:

For women:  You should weigh 100 pounds for the first 5 feet of height.  You add 5 pounds for every inch over 5 feet and subtract 5 pounds for every inch under.
For men:  You should weigh 106 pounds for the first 5 feet of height.  And you add 6 pounds for every inch over, and subtract 6 pounds for every inch under.
In each case, add 10% for a large frame or subtract 10% for a small frame.

Now here comes the fun part!  You calculate your frame size as follows:
Use a tape measure to measure the smallest part of your wrist.  Record it to the nearest 0.1 cm.  Then solve for "r" as follows:  r = height (in centimeters) divided by wrist circumference in centimeters.  In calculating your height in centimeters, remember that there are 2.54 centimeters per inch.  Now here's what the result for "r" that you will get means -
                                          Male "r" value               Female "r" value
Small                                     >10.4                              >11.0
Medium                                9.6 - 10.4                    10.1 - 11.0                
Large                                     <9.6                               <10.1

To show you how it is done, I will use myself as an example.  At 5' 6" tall, without adjusting for frame size, I should weigh 130 pounds (100 pounds for up to 5'.  Then I add 6 x 5, or 30 pounds for the 6" over five feet).  To calculate my frame size, I measured my wrist at its skinniest point - it was 15.4 centimeters.  My height in centimeters is 66 inches x 2.54 or 167.64.  167.64 divided by 15.4 = 10.89 - almost small frame. With that said, I should weigh between 117 (small frame weight) and 130 (average frame weight), or 123.5 pounds.  
If you notice that one wrist is larger than the other, use the larger measurement.  It should be a very small difference.  Hope to hear from you all.  But, until we meet again, happy and healthy eating!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Calling All You Chocoholics Out There!

There's an expression I use to describe something truly beautiful and wonderful.  I say that God was in a good mood when He made it.  I use that phrase to describe my husband, my two sons, and chocolate.  : )  Even on my low-fat, "eating to live" diet, I have found ways to incorporate it into my life.  Besides my chocolate pudding cake, I make chocolate souffles, banana breads, bread puddings, cupcakes (all low fat), and indulge in the occasional ounce of dark chocolate with a glass of Pinot Noir.   I even love chocolate wine (oh yeah - it's out there if you look hard enough!) and once tried a chocolate beer that I found to be amazing.  Unfortunately, not many people agreed with me on that one and it was pulled from the shelves of the only store in which I could find it.   Sigh...

Yes, chocolate is delightful, but the really delightful thing about it is that it is also good for you.  It contains flavanol antioxidants and may contribute to improved cardiovascular health by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, in particular dark chocolate and cocoa (the hot beverage).  Because chocolate comes from the cacao tree, it is full of natural plant nutrients, not unlike those found in fruits, nuts, and grains.  (See  In fact, dark chocolate contains 8 times the number of antioxidants found in strawberries.  Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease.  [from (longevity)]  It's still a high-calorie, high fat food, though, so you need to eat it in moderation.  According to the April 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times, a "dose" of chocolate is an ounce of the dark variety, or a cup of hot cocoa. 

So, in sticking with my belief that a diet should never mean deprivation of the foods you enjoy, the next time you find yourself "sneaking" that bite of chocolate, you can smile and feel good about the fact that you are actually doing something good for yourself...

If reading this Blog has given you a craving for something chocolatey, here's a real easy one:  melt some semi-sweet chocolate morsels in a microwave safe bowl, stir until creamy, and dip some banana slices in it...Yum!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You Don't Have to Kiss Sweets Good-Bye - Really!

A new study shows that it may be easier to stick to a diet if you allow yourself a sweet treat now and then (like I did tonight with my mom's Candied Yams, and last Friday with the Chocolate Pudding Cake.  O.K.  So my versions of both of them have been lightened up, but not so much so that they are anything less than delicious!).  Banning sugary foods completely from your diet can actually lead to overeating.  Removing access to sweet foods stimulates the release of a molecule in our brain that is normally produced when we are anxious or stressed.  Increased stress lowers our motivation to eat healthy and nutritious foods, so we tend to binge on junk food.  (From Eating Well magazine, June 2010 - referring to a study in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences"). 
Note:  Especially if you have health issues that require limitation of sugar intake, make sure that, when you allow yourself your sweet treat, that it is a small portion - just enough to sate your craving.  When I just have to have some cheesecake, I split a slice with my husband or a friend.  And there is so much to be said for an ounce of dark chocolate with a 5 ounce glass of your favorite Pinot Noir - both contain antoxidants, for one thing.  See my previous Blog on Red Wine and check out tomorrow's Blog on the benefits of chocolate.   In the meantime, happy and healthy eating!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Good Carbs - Yup, They're Out There...

O.K.  This is going to be a short Blog.  And it's a reaction and response to my Atkins fan (atics) out there.  Carbohydrates are a crucial part of our diet, as they are our main source of fuel.  (Think of "carbohydrate loading" before an athletic event)  Many carbs contain fiber (something we often do not get enough of in our diet) and they are not fattening - too many calories are fattening!  Some carbs are better than others - I will agree with that.  But good carbs include whole grains, beans, fruits, and most of the vegetables our children like; and on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, the New Food Pyramid recommends 6 servings a day, 5 on a 1,600 calorie diet. 

Calculating Your Body Mass Index (or BMI)

BMI is a mass to body ratio that is a starting point in determining whether or not you are actually overweight for your height.  As a nutritionist, it is one of 5 tools I use to help someone determine their weight goal.  Your results will fall into one of the following categories:

               Under 25 - normal weight
               25 to 29   - overweight
               30 and Above - obese

Here's how to calculate your BMI: 
1.)  Multiply your weight in pounds by 703 
2.)  Convert your height to inches and multiply that number by itself
3.)  Divide the answer to # 1 by the answer to #2

And voila!  You've calculated your BMI.  Note that very muscular people, like my husband, might clock in as "overweight" when they actually aren't.  It's true that muscle weighs more than fat...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Counting Calories is Such a Pain!

 I just talked with a friend of mine who pretty much admitted that she needs to lose weight but refuses to count calories.  She'd rather cut out carbs or "something easy" like that.  No one said that losing weight and staying in shape is easy.  Believe me, I am not "Miss Perfect" when it comes to my diet.  I indulge my cravings every now and then.  But, 9 years after reaching my goal, I still count calories.  When I don't for any length of time, guess what happens?  I usually gain weight.  For health reasons, I am on a low-fat diet and I have learned to love it.  But just watching the fats I consume isn't enough.  It really boils down to calories.

A pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories.  If you decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, over a seven day period, you should lose a pound - whether you do it by cutting fat, eliminating carbs, or by only eating plant-based foods.  Now, for health reasons, I do not recommend cutting carbs from your diet - I have a real problem with anyone being on the Atkins diet for more than a few weeks.  Remember: we are delicate mechanisms that require certain nutrients to operate at our optimum capacity, and we need our carbs!   We should eat the "right" carbs, of course (another Blog topic).  But don't cut them out altogether.   Please...

If you find that cutting 500 calories a day is too much for you - leaving you hungry - cut 200 or 300 calories instead.  You'll still lose the weight, only not as fast.  Do the math and you can figure out how long it will take you to reach your goal.   But without counting calories and getting in the habit of doing so, unless you eat the same things day in and day out (another thing I do not believe in), you are pretty much going at it blind.  And I find that we have a horrible habit of underestimating how much we are really eating if we don't keep track of it.  That's one of the things I like about Weight Watchers - if done correctly, they keep careful track of everything they eat. 

I hope that, with most of you, I am preaching to the choir, and, if I am, please forgive me.  But I felt so bummed after talking with my friend.  I feel bummed after talking with anyone who claims that no matter what they try, they can't lose weight.  I simply can not accept that!  I care that you eat right, lose weight intelligently (if you need to), and keep the weight you lose off after reaching your goal.   To get an idea if you really need to lose weight, next time I will discuss your BMI (Body Mass Index).  So until then, happy and healthy eating!

So, in Order to Lose a Pound a Week, I have to Eat How Many Calories a Day?

If you read my last Blog and are trying to lose weight this year, you may be stunned to find that, in order to lose a pound a week, you have to keep your calorie count down to 1,300 per day (or 1,100 if you are over 50).  The good news is that that's only for "sedentary" people - (sedentary women, to be exact, over the age of 26).  If you've taken a peek at the New Food Pyramid, you will notice a little guy running up the side of it.  That's because exercise should be a part of your daily routine.  So if you walk (at a good, fast pace) 30-60 minutes per day, you can increase that 1,300 or 1,100 by 200 calories a day and still lose a pound a week.  If you are taking my challenge and are counting your calories this week and need help to trim them down without feeling hungry, that's what I;m here for! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How Many Calories Should You Eat Each Day? - (You MUST read this one!)

That has been the big question I've been getting lately.  And it's a great question.  After all, it is calories that matter when it comes to losing (and gaining) weight.  If you drop 500 calories a day from your diet, you should lose a pound a week.  If you add 500, you should gain a pound a week.  My goal is to make sure we are making the most of the calories we eat each day, but we all need a benchmark, so here goes: To maintain your current weight, here's how many calories you should be consuming each day:

Women, Ages 19 and older:
Age               Sedentary             Moderately Active        Active
19-25              2,000                       2,200                     2,400     
26-30              1,800                       2,000                     2,400
31-50              1,800                       2,000                     2,200
51-60              1,600                       1,800                     2,200
61+                 1,600                       1,800                     2,000

Men, Ages 19 and older:
Age               Sedentary            Moderately Active        Active
19-20             2,600                       2,800                     3,000
21-35             2,400                       2,800                     3,000
36-40             2,400                       2,600                     2,800
41-55             2,200                       2,600                     2,800
56-60             2,200                       2,400                     2,600
61+                2,000                       2,400                     2,600

 (Calorie charts and information (below) on activity levels are from The New Food Pyramids)

By looking at the above charts, you have probably come to the same conclusion that I have:  life is unfair if you're a woman, especially if you are a woman over the age of 26.  Men get to eat so much more than we do before it begins to affect their weight.  So, if some of you women out there match your husband bite-for-bite at each meal and wonder why you are gaining weight and he's not, well, the answer is that "he" can, and is supposed to, eat more than you do.

And you are just going to love this next part.  The definition of "sedentary" is "less than 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities".  To be "Moderately active", you have to engage in "at least 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities".  And "active" means "60 minutes or more a day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities." 
I have to be honest with you, before I sprained and tore up my ankle, I can say that I was moderately active. I took 45 - 60 minute "fast-walks" through the trails in my neighborhood each day.  Since then, I have begun walking again but have to admit that, by definition, I am sedentary.  And I've noticed that if I eat more than 1,800 calories per day for 2 or more days running, I gain weight!

So, if you are not happy with your weight, I challenge you to honestly record the calories for everything you eat each day and, after a week, see how you measure up.   Don't forget to also be honest about your activity level.  When you're done, please feel free to share your results with me - I can help you get back on track.  That's what I'm here for....Until next time, happy and "healthy" eating!
P.S. If you are under 19 and want to know how you measure up, just tell me your sex, age, and how active you are, and I'll provide that information for you!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Are You Really Willing to Make a Change? - It's Hard Work, But Definitely Worth it!

Fad diets, like Jenny Craig, the Atkins diet, Slim Fast, and to a lesser degree Weight Watchers, are still big news these days. And I have a problem with that, because healthy eating is not, and should not, be a fad. Nor is it something to do to achieve a temporary goal.  Eating healthy is, simply put, the logical way to eat.  And it should be a permament part of one's lifestyle, not something we do for 6 months or that comes out of little prepared packages that we eat until we reach "our goal" and are then left with 2 options:  1.)  either keep buying the little packages, or 2.) go back to the way we ate before and gain back most of what we lost.  Keep in mind that when we don't eat what is "good" for us, or if our weight goes up and down again and again, eventually our bodies will rebel.  Can't blame them.  They need certain things to function properly, and when we don't supply them with those things, they break down.  Much like your car does if you don't give it the right kind of gasoline or get the oil changed when you should.  And believe me - I should know!

I wasn't always so considerate of my body's needs.  No, I was actually a walking nightmare when it came to what I ate.  I let my head rule.  You see, what we choose to eat is largely due to conditioning.  We like eating what we are used to eating.  If your mother went overboard with salt, you tend to crave it throughout your life, and end up being on high blood pressure medication by the time you're 40.  If rib eye steak with butter on it was a weekly feature in your house, followed by fried chicken, and dishes that included a pound of butter or a cup of oil, unless you have amazing genes, I can't even begin to tell you the health problems that could be lurking if you have continued the trend.  I know because my diet used to be both a salt and a fat-bomb.  And it did not take a cardiac catheterization in the year 2000 to change it.  It took Stage 3 breast cancer in September of 2001 to wake me up. 

It took my almost losing my life to begin researching the connection between health and diet, especially the link between cancer and diet, and I realized that I was killing myself with mine.  I was not giving my body anything that it "needed" - just what it "wanted."   I hated greens and most non-starchy vegetables, skinless chicken or lean meats of any kind, chose "fried" over "grilled" whenever given a choice, and beans were a 4-letter word.  I radically changed the way I ate after I radically changed the way I perceived the role of food in my life.  Not only physically, but even spiritually, the way I used to eat weighed me down.  I was often too sluggish to stay alert enough to pray with any kind of real focus.  I also struggled with my weight - something that drove my cardiologist to distraction.  But, since changing my diet (and I mean really changing it), I have maintained a healthy weight for 9 years!  I remember when I first reached my goal, my mother-in-law refused to buy me "size small" clothes.  She was convinced I would gain at least some of the weight I lost back - after all, everyone does.  9 years later, I am still a size 2 to 4 (used to be a 10 to 12) and am still a size small (used to be a large).  Changing the way I ate, as opposed to "going on a diet" was the only thing that worked for me. 

Long, long story short, I am now a Nutritionist by trade, and this Blog is my gift to those of you who care about what you put into your bodies, and who either want to make sure you are eating right or would like to change the way you eat.  I include pictures (with recipes upon request) of meals I prepare to demonstrate that healthy eating does not have to be boring.  Believe me, I enjoy food too much to have a blah, boring diet.  But it does mean cutting down on certain fats and, perhaps, salt, knowing what's in the prepared and processed foods you buy, varying your diet, especially the fruits and vegetables you consume, and just making sure you are getting enought of what you "need".

So, until we meet again, happy, healthy eating to you all or, as the Vulcans say, "Live long and prosper!" (couldn't help it - recently saw the movie and loved it!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Turmeric - Way More Than a better Yellow Food Coloring

Yesterday, I explained why Yellow dyes 5 and 6 have been banned from our house.  And I mentioned that one of the organic ways to make food yellow was with a spice called "turmeric".  Turneric is commonly used in Indian cooking, but is also found in Middle Eastern and other cuisines.  When I begin a 47-day meatless fast in about a month, Indian food will become a weekly addition to our diet.  I will make my boys' favorites, post them, and introduce you to delicious and "light" Indian dishes.  Trust me, even if you think you don't like Indian food, you will love Vegetable Biriyani.  Chicken Biriyani is even better though - so look for it in a week or two before the fast begins. 

O.K.  So here's the skinny on Turmeric:  it has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  It has even been used in trials as a potential cancer treatment for breast, colon, and prostate cancer - with promisning results.  Apparently, the curcumin in it can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.  (See "Eating Well" magazine, December 2010, pg. 75).  As a cancer survivor, when I first heard this a few years back (from my oncologist!), I began to cook Indian food like crazy.  One night we'd have Biriyani, the next Palak Paneer, then Kheema (ground lamb with peas).  Unfortunately, I burned my family out on the stuff.  So now I make it a few times a month (except for fasting periods), and eat it out as often as I can.  Indian food can be pretty fattening, so you have to know what to order in a restuarant.  In the meantime, I highly recommend the book New Indian Home Cooking, by Madhu Gadia.  To quote the cover, it contains "more than 100 delicious, nutritional and easy low-fat recipes".  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

There's gasoline in my food?

Yesterday I mentioned that people should be more concerned about the fact that there are petroleum products in foods they buy than about how much high fructose corn syrup they are consuming.  And I said I would cover that subject in another Blog.  Well, today is that day!

I was alerted to the fact that some foods contain petroleum (think "gasoline")  when someone very near and dear to me started reacting with what appeared to be seizures every time he ate Eggo waffles (original flavor).  It had become his favorite breakfast and he savored every bite as he gnawed away at them in his little high chair.  The seizure-like reactions started, maybe, two weeks after they were established as his new favorite food.  An allergist warned me that the Yellow 6 in the waffles was the likely culprit.  And, while I was at it, it would be a good idea to exclude the very common preservatives BHA and BHT from his diet.  I was also told to go to Whole Foods and buy natural, organic children's vitamins.  I did as he suggested and the seizures disappeared - forever...

The culprit?  Yup, you guessed it.  Petroleum.  Seizures are an extreme and very rare reaction, but Yellow 6, BHA, BHT, and the coating on many popular vitamins has been linked to severe hyperactivity in some (especially) children, and even to "allergic" reactions such as gastric disturbances in others.

As a slight digression, I have to say that I have a real problem with both Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.  Yellow 6 because it is made of "gasoline"; Yellow 5 because it is made of a chemical called "tartrazine", which has been linked to anxiety, migraines, clinical depression, blurred vision, and sleep disturbances.  In fact, it has been banned in Norway and was banned in Germany and Austria as well until the European Parliament lifted the ban.  (See   Sadly, any non-organic food that has yellow in it more than likely contains Yellow 5 and/or 6.     And, if you recall your color wheel from Art class, this would include foods that are green and orange as well.  There are other ways to make foods yellow - organic sources, for example, often use Turmeric (which is a wonder-spice that I will discuss in a future Blog).

So, my faithful Blog-pals, I hope that this entry has inspired you to read those labels and get the gasoline out of your diet and leave it in your cars where it belongs.  As always, happy and healthy eating to you all!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's all the Hype About High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup has been getting a lot of bad press.  And I notice a good amount of people reading labels to make sure they aren't getting any of it in their diet.  It's being treated like it's a component of gasoline (a - gulp! - dietary topic I will cover on another Blog...).  I think what puzzles me is that I see the same people buying white table sugar or cakes, cookies, and other snacks that are chock full of it.  Heck, sugar is even an ingredient in many popular Pasta sauces and other prepared foods.  And put side by side there is really no difference between the two.  Both are processed sweeteners and they contain the same amount of calories per teaspoon.  Both offer nothing to our diet, nutritionally, and they have even been linked to hyperactivity in children (and some adults as well). 

I guess my point is that if you really want to "cut out the bad stuff", go easy on all processed sweeteners.  If you drink coffee or tea and like it sweet, try raw sugar, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup.  And check labels in the organic sections of your supermarkets to find items sweetened with them.  A real challenge, and it is one I am trying this year, is to drink your hot beverages and iced teas without any sweetener.  But I digress...

When you shop, be honest with yourself.  If you are buying cookies, cakes, and other sweets, don't let the addition of high fructose corn syrup scare you away.  None of these items are "good" for you anyway.  If they have removed that ingredient from an item that once contained it, chances are they have just added more sugar to make up for it.  Does the new, "contains no high fructose corn syrup" version taste any less sweet? 

If you really want to eat healthier (because the truth is there is a lot of junk out there that ticks me off to think that it is in or on our food), keep checking this site.  I want to help you make some changes that will really reap benefits that your body will thank you for (in its own "feeling better" sort of way...). 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Calcium Revisited

I have many friends who are either vegan or are sensitive to dairy.  To be honest, there are several days each year that I do not eat dairy because I am fasting during that time.  So, for those of you who requested it, I am posting some of the best plant-based calcium sources:
1.)  Collard greens   (1 cup cooked) 375 mgs.
2.)  Calcium fortified juices     150 - 300 mgs.
3.)  Fortified soy milk    (1 cup)        280 mgs.
4.)  Tofu     (4 oz.)                           260 mgs.
5.)  Tempeh      (4 oz.)                     172 mgs.
6.)  Brocolli (1 cup cooked)             136 mgs.
7.)  Soybeans (1 cup)                       131 mgs.
8.)  Almonds  (1/4 cup)                      75 mgs.
Until next time, happy (and healthy) eating!!

Monday, January 17, 2011


I'm not a big fan of beer and am a real light-weight when it comes to the hard stuff.  But I really enjoy an occasional glass of red wine.  I was raised on it.  When I was, maybe 3 years old, I had it mixed with water at the dinner table.  Hey, I'm Greek and wine is in my blood.  Now I prefer a good Pinot Noir, Malbec, or a light Cabernet.  Imagine my joy when I discovered that red wine contains heart-healthy anti-oxidants - polyphenols that actually reduce the impact of high-fat foods on our cardio-vascular system.   And then all the hype about "resveratrol".  This amazing enzyme (I believe that is what it technically is)  claims to reverse the aging process.  How it does that has something to do with its ability to mimic the effect of calorie restriction.  This is a topic for another day, but there are studies out there that demonstrate that those who restrict the number of calories they eat each day to something like 1,500 or less have been shown to live longer. 
Of course, wine is good for you only if you drink it in moderation (translation:  about a 5-ounce glass a day).  Much more than that and you face the law of diminishing returns.  Until we meet again, I lift my glass to you - my Blog family and friends... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Calcium Demystified

You've probably heard that we need calcium in our diets - and a lot of it (at least 1,000 mgs. per day).  But do you know why?   I think of my poor mother who was once 5' 10", but is now about 5' 7" and has the beginnings of an unsightly hump on her back and realize that, sadly, that could have been avoided.  We need calcium in our diets to stave off osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases.  Especially (but definitely not only) if we are women and are over (gulp) the age of 40.  But milk, one of our best dietary sources of this vital mineral, is getting a bad rap these days.  What to do, what to do?

If you're like me and keep dairy in your diet, here are the best "calcium bombs":  First and foremost, plain Greek yogurt.  A 6-ounce serving of that lusciously-textured food of the gods provides up to 40% of your daily requirement of calcium.  Sprinkle some walnuts and a bit of honey on top and you have a healthy and satisfying dessert.  Add a glass of skim milk and some cheese to your day and you're just about there.  (Note that when it comes to dairy, the fat free (milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese) and low fat (most other cheeses) varieties are much better for you. 

With that said, not everyone can tolerate milk and some people avoid dairy because of lifestyle choices, such as a vegan diet.  For you, and for all the rest of us who realistically are still not getting what we need from our diet, we need to take a daily supplement.  Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal.  You are better off drinking a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice than you are taking one of the standard "hard" oyster shell or other such calcium tablets. 

Do an experiment and please share your results with me.  Place your current calcium tablet in a cup with just enough water to cover it.  Wait half an hour (stirring ocassionally) and see what is left in your glass.  If the "pill" has not dissolved by then, it won't do so in your tummy either.  As a rule, most calcium "tablets" pass through us pretty much unabsorbed.  The chewable varietes absorb better but are way too sweet. Your best bet are the liquid filled calcium tablets.  They usually provide 600 mgs. each.  I take one of them a day and make sure that I also either eat a plain, Greek yogurt or have a glass of skim milk or some cheese.

Wow!  Sorry about the length of the post, folks!  These last couple of topics are pretty close to my heart and there is no way to keep them brief and give you all the information you need to know.  
If you have any questions, that's what I'm here for.  Please do not hesitate to ask.  In the meantime, happy eating!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I was "good" and ordered a salad...

I hear this all the time from friends and clients who are trying to either lose weight, manage their cholesterol, or stay fit.  They have just gone out to their favorite restaurant and are proud of what they just ate.  But when I hear which salad they ordered, it usually makes me cringe.  Too many restaurant salads are not healthy, packing on way too many calories and containing a shocking amount of fat.  For example, Quizno's Classic Cobb Flatbread Salad has 910 calories and 58 grams of fat.  Baja Fresh's Charbroiled Steak Tostada Salad -  1,230 calories and 63 grams of fat.  TGI Friday's Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad has 1,360 calories and would not disclose the amount of fat it contained.  Romano's Macaroni Grill's Seared Sea Scallops Salad packs in a whopping 1,170 calories and 94 grams of fat.  My favorite (gag!) is On The Border's Grande Taco Salad with Taco Beef and Chipotle Honey Mustard - it has 1,700 calories and 124 grams of fat!!   OMG!!!   The list goes on and on. 

Baja Fresh does have an Ensalada Charbroiled Shrimp salad with Fat Free Salsa Verde that has only 245 calories and 6 grams of fat.  And Quizno's "side" salad with raspberry chipotle dressing has only 225 calories and 6 grams of fat.  In the middle of the pack is Wendy's Mandarin Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, weighing in at 470 calories and 22 grams of fat (still a bit high to me...)  These are great, but are they enough to be truly considered a "meal"?

My point is that, just because it is a "salad" does not mean it is healthy.  Salads are usually served with fat-laden dressings, and often contain candied nuts, cheeses, sour cream, bacon, and, if it is a Mexican salad, fried tortilla strips.  And the ones that are are really "healthy" are not filling.   Lettuce and other greens are good for you, but it would be wiser (and way more filling and nutritious) to order a lean meat (unless you are vegetarian) with rice and the vegetable of the day.  In fact, I can provide suggestions for yummy and satisfying entrees to order from pretty much any type of restaurant.  If you want a salad, order a "house" one with either Fat Free or Low Fat dressing or with a Balsamic Vinaigrette, and have the dressing "on the side". 

Phew!  It felt real good to get that one off my chest.  Sorry for the length of the post, but, as I said, this is one of my pet peeves.   See you next time....AG

Note:  Salad calorie and fat information obtained from "Refreshing News: Unhealthy Salads" - online site.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Redefining Food

Once upon a time (or until 9 years ago), I used to pretty much live to eat - with my favorite foods being anything deep fried, creamy, or sweet.  Now, due to circumstances that forced me to re-evaluate all my priorities, I eat to live.  Yes, I know that sounds cliche, but I learned the hard way that food is not just for pleasure.  I learned that our bodies are delicate mechanisms that require specific fuels to operate efficiently and at optimum capacity.  So I studied nutrition - and I mean really studied it and tried to "clean up my act".  At first, I made the same things all the time, restricting myself to the point where eating out was almost impossible and meals became boring.  This was not what I was looking for.  My quest was to find a diet that I could live with without giving up the pleasure behind eating.  It took a few years to fine-tune it, but achieving that goal has been so nice!  Sharing ideas with like-minded individuals and helping others to jump start their - oh I hate the word but have to use it - "diets" has now become part of who I am.  So, for 2011, I have decided to post tips for all of you who made that New Year resolution to eat better, lose weight, and gain control of your health.  Hope to hear from you along the way.   : )