Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pot of the Week

A couple of weeks ago I was doing I daily blog hopping when a post on Erica Sara’s site caught my attention. I tweeted Erica (as embarrassing as it is we met on Twitter) and asked her if she’d post here and tell my hungry readers about her genius Pot of the Week. I’m thrilled Erica chose split peas for her recipe, they are the perfect cold weather food. I contemplated how split peas split on a 1 degree day in Vermont last winter.

When Lauren asked me to write a guest post for the Foodtrainers blog, I was so honored & excited. I've been reading this blog for quite some time and have always found it to be an incredible source of information and inspiration. I hope that my "Pot of the Week" does just the same for all of you.

So, what is a pot of the week? During the cold NYC months, usually on a Sunday afternoon, I prepare a large pot of soup or stew to have on hand for at least one meal a day for the upcoming week. It needs to be quick and easy to make, full of flavor, and loaded with nutrients to get me through my busy days. When I have something hearty & healthy on call at all times, it takes the guess work out of lunch or dinner and saves me tons of money on eating out. Some of my favorites have been Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili  
and a Pumpkin Chickpea stew. Delicious!

This week's pot is a vegetarian play on the traditional Split Pea Soup. I added cannellini beans and roasted corn to kick up the flavors and for protein so that this can be served as a meal. Tonight, I'll eat this soup served with some home baked crusty french bread and a small side salad. Tomorrow, I'll probably pour it over brown rice for a different type of meal. And on Tuesday, I might eat it next to a veggie burger or piece of steamed fish with a side of veggies. The ideas are endless; just what I love about soup!

Split Pea Soup with Cannellini Beans & Corn
serves 4-6

1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 large Onions, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 large Carrot, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Thyme
2 cups Green Split Peas, picked through & rinsed
6 cups of low-sodium Vegetable Stock
1 can Cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup Frozen Corn (I used the Roasted Corn from Trader Joe's. It's delicious but regular frozen corn is fabulous as well!)
Salt & Pepper to season
Smoked Paprika (optional)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, celery and carrots and cook until they start to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, split peas and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until all the vegetables are soft and the split peas are cooked through, approximately 40-50 minutes. During this time, you may need to add additional liquid so check every 15 minutes and add more vegetable stock  or water as needed. Puree the soup (be sure to allow to cool slightly if using a blender) and then add the beans and corn. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with a dash of smoked paprika upon serving if you like.
 See? Easy, delicious & healthy! Enjoy.
What are your favorite soups or stews to make? What are your favorite wintry foods? Have you made any friends on Twitter?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Away Game

Thanksgiving is about more than one decadent meal shared with friends and family. This holiday weekend often involves travel and not the cushy variety to a hotel or resort. Thanksgiving means staying with family on their turf.  Typically we stay with my parents but this year we were with my in laws. I must say, (disclaimer) my in- laws are extremely healthy people who exercise a ton and eat well. They also have very different food rules than my family.  While every meal is an event in my family, discussed as much as 24 hours in advance, my in laws are more casual. "Help yourself to anything" is the directive and let's just say I did.

Slayton siblings are dispersed Thursday at various celebrations. We all convene Friday afternoon in Bridgehampton for 3pm “dinner” aka Thanksgiving #2.  I like this schedule as I enjoy eating early and you can’t get much earlier than 3. While the cousins played soccer outside we had chicken, an Ina Garten recipe for cauliflower with pine nuts, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. This is what I selected there was also corn bread, stuffing and a pasta dish.  We sat around talking and at 6pm it felt like bedtime. The 8 children in the house didn’t seem to agree so we talked some more, munching on clementines and grapes. My food game plan was in tact.

The next morning, the guys went to play tennis. I drove to Shelter Island with my sister in law and mother in law for a hike at a nature preserve. We chose the 6-mile hike and had a great time.  In 90 minutes, over a mini mountain (ok hill) and through the woods, we completed our Thanksgiving "post game" report.  We arrived home around 11:00 and I was starving. I looked in the fridge and found a Fage Greek yogurt. We made some tea and sat down in the kitchen to eat. When I went to throw the yogurt out I spotted a mound of bagels the guys had brought back with them.  I don’t eat a lot of wheat and practically never eat bagels. In the food equivalent of an on side kick, I tore a piece of a soft, warm whole-wheat bagel.  It was delicious. I showered and my husband I went into town for a bit while his parents watched the boys (an away game advantage).

Around 2pm we returned home. My boys were perfectly content but hadn’t had lunch. I made the mistake of encouraging them to tell Farmor (grandma in Swedish) if they were hungry. Now, given the choice between playing and food my boys are choosing sports.  I took their lunch orders and went to prepare it. My older son wanted some of the pasta with peas from the day before. My little guy requested a bagel with turkey (even if it was chicken).  I made myself a plate with some chicken and veggies from the previous day’s crudité plate. I also had some pasta as I was portioning it out and a third of a Russian pumpernickel bagel, my MVP of team bagel, from the rapidly shrinking pile.  Marc’s sister came in and declared “I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I’ve been starving all day.” We commiserated, chalked it up to a good workout outside the stimulated our appetites. My husband later pointed out dinner at 3pm the night before didn’t help things.

The rest of the weekend was fairly similar (though no more bagels after Saturday). I went for a great run Sunday morning.  We were off schedule though, eating at irregular times and at the mercy of what was there to eat. I typically travel with “ammunition” but the cooking for Thanksgiving and knowing my in laws were healthy I slacked off a bit.  We arrived home yesterday afternoon. I slipped out for a manicure. When I went to remove my rings, I couldn’t! I joked to the manicurist “is everyone having this problem today?” She reassured me and said, “yes, this was holiday weekend.”
Did you travel this weekend? How is your eating when on other peoples’ turf? What is the biggest challenge? Are you happy to be home?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving: What I'm Eating

Yesterday, my son told me about a child in his third grade class who “loves vegetables.” When the teachers rewarded the children with Starbursts after completing a writing assignment (hmn), this little girl turned the candy down. My son reported all of this completely flabbergasted. I wouldn’t necessarily have turned down starbursts at 8 years old but I would now. When I think about our family Thanksgiving tomorrow, I will do the adult version of snubbing the starburst. On Monday, I provided you with my top turkey day tips that I wholeheartedly endorse However, when I got to thinking about my personal plan and plate for Thanksgiving it didn’t require special rules.

You might say, “you’re a nutritionist of course you eat well.” The truth is I do not. Always. Often times when I travel, I like to sample the local fare, tastes I feel I haven’t come across and may never again. The same thing happens on restaurant menus when something peaks my interest. For me, and no offense meant to what I’m sure will be a delicious spread at my sister’s home, Thanksgiving foods are mostly things I have had before. Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pie are available almost every day.

I fully comprehend the holiday mindset. It’s a holiday, happens once a year and our healthy rules should bend a little. What I am suggesting is that the flexibility works for some but no need to flex if you don’t want to.  My Thanksgiving meal will go something like this. My sister has vegetables, dip and cheeses out when we arrive. I will have some crudité and a glass of wine. My mother will make soup as a first course; I’ll have some. For dinner I’ll have turkey (maybe dark meat, love it), the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts and edamame succotash I am cooking, some sweet potatoes and this cosmopolitan cranberry sauce (with triple sec) my sister is serving. To me, this meal sounds unbelievably delicious. I would choose these items over pumpkin pie and also starbursts any day.
Are you someone who will flex on tomorrow? Do you eat differently on holidays? Do you feel it's being a party pooper not to?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Bright Side: carb of choice

Market Melissa (Foodtrainers' Melissa O'Shea) told you about leeks and Brussels sprouts and last, but certainly not least, in our “bright sides” series is spaghetti squash.

While I have never met a squash I didn’t like, preparing them is another story. I’ll admit, after a few battles with a butternut squash, I often resort to the prepped and cut up variety offered at most stores. Spaghetti squash is not offered this way, but I assure you it is worth the effort to cook one of these up.
Like most varieties of winter squash, you will find loads of potassium, Vitamin C and beta-carotene in spaghetti squash.  When selecting your squash you may spot white and green spaghetti squash, but look for the orange ones which taste a bit sweeter. Spaghetti squash has lower calories and grams of carbohydrates per cup compared to butternut squash, pasta or a sweet potato plus, it looks and can be used like spaghetti. It's a favorite of our clients at Foodtrainers.
1 cup spaghetti squash: 40 calories, 10g carbohydrates
1 cup butternut squash: 80 calories, 21g carbohydrates
1 cup pasta: 212 calories, 42g carbohydrates
1 cup sweet potatoes: 180 calories, 42g carbohydrates

You can bake, broil, roast, steam or even throw it into a crock-pot or slow-cooker.  If you have a crock pot, place the whole squash into the cooker, pierce it with a fork, add water and cook on low for 8-10 hours. The seeds you will find inside can also be roasted, similar to pumpkin seeds.

To bake a spaghetti squash:  Cut the squash in half (place in the microwave for a few minutes to soften the squash to make it easier to cut open), scoop out the seeds and place the halves face down into a baking dish.  Add a little water, just enough to cover the sides of the squash.  Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 375 degrees Fahrenheit, until the flesh is tender.  Pull a fork lengthwise through the flesh to separate into long strands that resemble spaghetti, hence the name spaghetti squash. 
You can top the squash with your favorite tomato sauce or try one of the recipes below. Now is the perfect time to look for spaghetti squash at your Farmer’s markets or local stores so what are you waiting for?
Happy Thanksgiving and we hope you all have some bright sides on your table this year.
What sides are you planning for your Thanksgiving meal? Would you consider the sides we’ve featured Leeks, Brussels Sprouts or Spaghetti Squash?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving: food coma avoidable

Thanksgiving pushes many of our food buttons. This week my email will be filled with messages like the following: “What do I do about Thanksgiving?  My happiest day is a giant bowl of mashed potatoes.  I could eat my body weight in mashed potatoes given the opportunity.  I don't really eat many other sides  just potatoes with a side of turkey  Do I splurge for the one day?  I'm very stressed out about it.”
Here is a post I wrote for my favorite site Blisstree 
If I tell you that it’s not actually a requirement to overindulge on Thanksgiving, will you hate me? Wait…I do have some good news: You also don’t need to be the weirdo with two Brussels sprouts and a sad, thin slice of turkey on your dinner plate on Thursday. As a nutritionist, I’ve spent years trying to strike a balance for my clients between strategy and satiety, special and silly.
Many of you already know the “good” items on the Thanksgiving table: White-meat turkey, cranberry sauce (ideally not gelatinous kind), sweet potatoes (later, marshmallows), and non-bastardized vegetables (and not drowned in melted cheese). The killers – and yes, in large volumes they are killers – include stuffing (so good, yet soooo bad), dark meat, turkey skin, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and any creamed vegetables or those given the casserole treatment. What you may not know is that the difference between a good plate and a bad plate can be enormous. A good meal will hover around 400 to 600 calories – including wine and extras. The killer? Multiply that number by three or four.
So what can you do if you cannot fathom a holiday without a serving or two of killer stuffing? First, commit to the One Plate Rule. Observe the offerings and formulate your strategy.
– Reserve ¼ of your plate for carbs including sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn, bread, and regular potatoes.
– Then you’ve got ¼ of your plate for turkey or another protein.
– Half of your plate should include vegetables (ideally the green kind), or salad – even if you have to steal the garnish from something. Eat your vegetables first; this aids digestion and fills you up on fiber.
Savor this plate of Thanksgiving goodness because there are no second helpings at dinner on this plan. Seconds and thirds lead to unbuttoning your pants in inappropriate places – not to mention serious regrets. The One Plate Rule leaves you feeling lighter and self-righteous.
Prior to Thanksgiving dinner, you must exercise. If you’re going to eat a sweet and fatty feast, get moving. Walk, dance, run, swim, spin, or practice yoga. But whatever you do, exercise is a prerequisite that will help your mindset later in the day. When dietary devil attempts to take over, appetite angel can reply: “No, don’t do it, you worked out and feel great – and there will be no unbuttoning at the dinner table!”
So you’ve worked out, eaten your virtuous one plate, and are feeling good. And then the pies, crumbles, tarts, and tortes arrive. I can hear you negotiating. (My clients try to negotiate, but I really believe that you’ve already had your pie before dessert.) You’ve had sweet potatoes topped with candy or  Jell-o disguised as sauce, and if we’re being adults about this – you really don’t need the pie. Now, much like my stuffing example, if you’ll cry or die without pie, then you need to pick your poison/pleasure. Choose mostly “goods” at mealtime, and then you can have your (tiny sliver of) pie and eat it, too.
Aren’t you thankful for Foodtraining?
What are your favorite Thanksgiving day treats? Does the plan above sound reasonable? Anything need negotiating? Let’s hear it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Diamonds and Drinks

I was grumpy yesterday. I even emailed a friend and asked “ever plan an event and just want it over?” She put me at ease and said she often felt that way.  There were the usual moving pieces, people backing out at the last minute and other neglected work I needed to get to.  I think I had a sneaking feeling things weren’t going to turn out as I wanted them to. Why is it these are always the nights that end up perfect?

A few months ago, I was introduced to a jewelry designer named Marissa Alperin. Marissa came to my office, with her jewels, and though I’m not a serious jewelry person I was blown away by collections inspired by the beach, her love of color and texture and a piece she had made for her mother who had survived breast cancer. I fell in love with 2 creations of Marissa’s that I now wear almost every day and wanted to show others her work.

I'll digress to one of the last conversations I had with my dad. We had talked about the soldiers coming home from Iraq. I was in his hospital room, reading the paper and he spotted a photo and said “we can’t forget about these kids coming home without arms and legs, it’s not a life.” In my glass half full mindset and talking to someone who knew first hand what life was life without a limb I said “but they are alive and get to come home.” Up went his eyebrows and slowly he said “it’s a limited life.” Those words stuck with me and continue to give me chills as I type this.

I had the idea to invite friends to see Marissa’s creations and asked Marissa if she’d consider donating a percentage of her profits to Wounded Warrior Project. I also asked what she thought of the idea of having a charm made in honor of my dad. The charm would be a martini. You see, despite his “limited life", martinis persisted. Marissa loved the idea and we got to work planning “Diamonds and Drinks”.

Last night we gathered in my apartment. Marissa turned my dining room into a jewelry shop. My friend John Marsh was busy at work in the kitchen. John will be opening his first NYC restaurant in a few weeks, his wife told me “he is only here for you and for this cause.”  I had kept the guest list small as I didn’t know how things would go.  Steadily, friends arrived from all different parts of my life. While some shopped others sipped and John’s organic bites were passed around the room. We ate beets and feta atop Mary's Gone Crackers, crab avocado wasabi crisps and small demitasse cups of gazpacho.

Did I mention the elderflower martinis? Yes, these martinis are made with Absolut Boston which is elderflower and black tea flavored. The vodka is combined with lemon juice and simple syrup. After about 2 hours I was told we were out of the lemon juice (from 2 dozen lemons!) and the reserve bottled lemon juice.  The martinis and the evening was a hit.  The night was perfect.

What do you think is the key to a successful party? The guests? The food? The drinks?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soup Season

While I love a good gazpacho in the middle of the summer, this time of year seems like the real soup season. Soup is fantastic on a raw, wintry day but it’s also good for weight loss efforts. Barbara Rolls’ Volumetrics research showed that when we eat soup as part of a meal, we tend to eat less. This has to due with the high water content of soup.  When choosing soup, out of the house, tomato-based, bean or broth based soups are good choices.  As if soups are “dairy free”, I find this is more strategic than asking if a soup contains cream and stick to those selections. To control sodium, stick to small sized soups and pair your soup with whole grain crackers, a side salad or fruit. I asked the writers behind some of my favorite blogs and sites for their soup selections around town or when not making their own.

Sara Reistad-Long, Svelte Gourmand
Sara and Camille's site Svelte Gourmand is one of my favorite blogs. They discuss recent research and recipes all in a tone that smart but never preachy.

I'm a big fan of Corbet & Conley's lentil and split pea soups. They're well spiced (i.e. you might get a bay leaf in your take-out container...feels very fresh). They're also rich, though. For lighter varieties, I tend to rely on Whole Foods. The flavorings are weaker, so I usually spice them up with a little sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and a splash of tabasco. A shake of tarragon can add a fun and unusual twist to anything chicken-based. 

Camille Noe Pagan, Svelte Gourmand
Off the top of my head, I love Pacific Natural Foods organic tomato soup. I grew up on Campbell's tomato soup, so it's a comfort food for me. The PNF version is similar in terms of taste, but is organic, and while not perfect, is at least made with cane syrup (instead of HFCS, which is most of the other tomato soups I've checked out--even so-called "healthy" versions), and is about 100 calories a serving. My toddler loves it, too.

Pamela Wenberg, City Baby
I've met Pamela almost nine years ago after I had Myles. She was running her new moms luncheons and I was seeking any information I could get my hands on (always loved research). She is the woman behind the City Baby books (or baby bibles) and site.

My favorite places for soup are: Corner Cafe (90th and Madison and 92nd and 3rd) and Soup Stop. I love the Broccoli soup at Corner and the Yellow Lentil at Soup Stop but I also like the Black Bean.

Melissa Gerstein, Moms in the City
Melissa is on the NYC show Moms in the City where 3 moms debate parenting issues, city life and current events and also writes a blog. I worked with Melissa on an episode of Moms in the City, we met through a friend at The Race for the Cure. Melissa sent the following suggestions:
Josie's Carrot Ginger and Artie's Matzoh Ball are my 2 NYC faves.

Lauren Johnston, Running Dialogue 
I believe Lauren and I met on Twitter, is that possible? We read each others blogs and I invited Lauren to a talk I was giving for runners. She recently  completed the NYC marathon and blogged about the whole experience.

I eat soup all winter!  There are two I really enjoy in my neighborhood (Prospect Heights).
Lentil soup from Zaytoons (it’s the thick kind, yellow lentils)
 Vegetarian Black bean soup from Cheryl’s Global Soul

My favorite take away soups are by far the selections at Hampton Chutney. They have carrot, sweet potato, multiple types of dal, spinach soups and they're all spicy and flavorful. The best part is the gluten-free cheese dosa that comes can with it.
What are your favorite soups in your area? Why do you like them? What comes with them? Do you eat it (the bread, crackers etc.)?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Market Foodtraining: Bright Sides

As promised, each week this month Market Melissa (Melissa Oshea) will bring you a veggie superstar she feels should make it onto your Thanksgiving table. This one is personal favorite that even made it onto her bio. This week we're talking Brussels sprouts.

Ever wonder where the name came from?  Brussels sprouts were originally cultivated in Belgium and therefore given the name “Brussels.” This is a little strange to us since most foods names do not include the city of origin. When it comes to Brussels sprouts, people can be separated into love ‘em or hate ‘em groups.  Many “hate ums” associate Brussels sprouts with something they were forced to eat as a child and therefore avoid now. However, how you cook vegetables, Brussels sprouts included, can make or break your experience. I’m not saying your mother wasn't a good cook way back when but rather that you may want to revisit certain veggies. John Lennon wanted peace, all we are saying is Give Brussels Sprouts a Chance!

Brussels sprouts are usually sold in small containers but you can also find them in stores still attached to the stem. You won’t find them on the “clean” or “dirty” produce lists (based on pesticide levels), so they aren’t a must to purchase organic. Just make sure to wash them really well to remove any dirt that may be trapped in between the leaves. Brussels sprouts are in season now making them easy to find in stores.

 In terms of health, Brussels sprouts are one of the strongest anti-cancer vegetables. Sulforaphane in Brussels sprouts signals the liver to release enzymes that can neutralize carcinogens. Sulforaphane shows promise with breast cancer as well; it can stop the production of breast cancer cells.  Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of Vitamin C and surprisingly contain Omega-3 fatty acids. With 4g of fiber per cup, your digestive system will also reap benefits from consuming these veggies. Interestingly, there is more protein in these Brussels sprouts, 4 grams, than most veggies, which tend to have 1-2 grams per cup.

While you can steam Brussels sprouts, I think roasting is by far the best and tastiest way to go. Just don’t overcook them, as this will bring out their sulfur content and make them quite stinky and taste rather bitter (hate ‘ems take note). You can store unwashed and untrimmed sprouts in a plastic bag for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

So for all of you Brussels sprouts haters, try my simple way cooking suggestion and let me know what you think.

  •  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Wash, trim and cut sprouts in half.
  • Toss with olive oil and kosher salt.
  • Roast cut side down on a baking sheet at 400F for about 30-35 minutes, until tender and slightly browned – remember not to overcook.
  • Shake the pan a few times during cooking so they brown evenly.
  •  If I ever have leftovers, I like throwing them into a salad the next day or eating them cold as a snack, yes we said snack.
Here are some other recipes that are great too:
Brussels sprout leaves
Brussels sprouts with walnut and lemon vinaigrette (Eating Well)
Brussels sprouts hash (Organic Authority)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with shallots
Are you a love 'em or a hate 'em? If you're a hate 'em have to tried them as an adult? What is your fave Brussels sprout recipe? What "bright sides" are you serving for Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive

A typical morning in the peaceful, easy Slayton household goes something like this. I bark requests (ok commands) while my children feign deafness and my husband tells me to calm down. Last week, as our departure time approached I looked at my shoeless son Myles and said “can you give me one reason why your shoes aren’t on?” He stared at me annoyingly tranquil, despite my hysteria, and answered “because you didn’t ask me to.” I went through the catalog of orders I had given the boys and he was right, that morning I hadn’t mentioned the shoes. Touché’.

I thought of this exchange on Monday when I attended a breakfast meeting and panel discussion on organic food sponsored by Stoneyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, Earthbound Farm and Native’. I listened as the moderator, a nutritionist named Ashley Koff, discussed visiting farms to observe the difference in organic and conventional soil. I nodded as Alex Lu, who is in environmental health at Harvard explained that nobody needs to prove conventional food is healthy. And what people would say if, instead of “organic” you asked if they want chemicals in their food or no chemicals? The U.S., it seems, has led the way in cleaning up our air and water but unfortunately not our food. As far as I was concerned, the esteemed panel was preaching to the choir. I was already pro-organic and when presented with the option vote organic for taste and health.

When it came time for the Q & A, I had a question I was dying to ask. Ashley had mentioned that her group had to pay the Westin in order to not serve their food and instead offer organic items. I had a room service delivery of non-organic coffee and hormoney milk back at our hotel thought I would never consume a conventional dairy product at home. As far as the convention I was attending I would place my bet on the needle in the haystack over finding organic food in the food court. I was passed the microphone, complimented the panel and asked “practically speaking, what do you suggest people do when they are away from home with few organic options?” The response was eye opening to say the least.

Jeff Moyer, from the Rodale Institute said the farmers grow what is requested of them. Sadly that’s often the potato that will make the maximum number of French fries or the tomato that can withstand the picking machine. “If people demanded organic, producers and companies would come around.” He said that if every 12 year old demanded organic pizza, the wheat industry (controlled by pizza) would change. This was completely eye-opening for me. I spend hours every day helping people make choices to improve their health and nutrition and hours more writing about the state of these areas. While I do work with my children’s school in improving the food offerings, I don’t think I had considered the power of us all acting as our own lobbyists. Why should we have to eat inferior food when away from home? Let’s each try to change the food selections at one school, store or restaurant and I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised. Some ideas:

• Ask your local coffee place if they serve organic milk. Tell them people would perhaps pay more for it and they can alert their customers they’ve made the change.
• Find out where your workplace gets food for meetings and see if the fruit or lunch meat can be changed to organic.
• Work with your children’s school; start with organic snacks or organic produce.
• And talk to your local pizzeria. Request organic cheese or organic flour (organic whole wheat or is a home run)
Let me know where you plan to “ask” for organic food options and pass this concept on to your friends, family members and coworkers. This time next year I hope the Westin has its own organic options.

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 FNCE Favorites

Every year, around this time, I attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo organized by the American Dietetic Association. Part of the conference involves seminars on various topics in nutrition, the other part is the expo. The expo is a giant, generally subterranean, windowless room filled with booths. The booths are run by food companies, big and small, virtuous and questionable. This year’s conference is in Boston. In between lectures, my friend Keri and I headed to the Expo Hall checking out the offerings. The whole process reminds me of trick or treating for nutritionists. There are some trick or treaters who want to gather as much as they can. Others survey the "candy" selecting only their favorite treats. After all these years, I am selective. I take samples from a few companies and taste a couple of items. Here are some of my favorite finds from FNCE this year:

 Mary’s Gone Cookies

The company behind the crunchy, gluten free crackers we love now makes a cookie. The cookies are also gluten free; they also have chia seeds and quinoa in them I tried the ginger and oatmeal and preferred the oatmeal. These are a great snack or a breakfast option.

 Sweet Leaf Liquid Stevia
Sweet Leaf makes stevia packets that are good for coffee or tea. I was excited to see Sweet Leaf Liqiud in interesting flavors such as English Toffee and Hazelnut. These work in oatmeal, yogurt or coffee drinks. The flavorings used are all natural.


Guayaki makes yerba mate, a caffeinated drink from a South American plant. Their yerba mate comes in tea bags, bottled drinks and a 35 calorie organic energy shot that contains ginger and goji berries. Guayaki is great before a workout or mid morning.

GG Scandinavian Bran Fiber Sprinkles
GG crackers have been a Foodtrainers’ favorite for years. They’re high in fiber and low in calories and a great bread stand in. GG now makes “sprinkles” a crumbled version of their crackers perfect in yogurt, mixed into a salad in blended in a smoothie for added fiber. We will be adding these to our Open Sky store.

Mu “measure up” Bowl

Regardless of what we eat, portions are important. Taking out measuring cups at 7am is more than I can handle so I loved finding these all-in-one bowls. There are subtle lines indication varying amounts on the inside of these bowls. Finally your serving can match what’s suggested on the package.

So I came, I tasted and I'm ready to head home.
Were you at FNCE, what were your favorite finds? If you weren’t any favorite new food finds? Any of these you’d like to try?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sweetest Thing

November is National Diabetes Month. Perhaps you are not one of the 24 million people in the US with Diabetes. For this reason, maybe you don’t give diabetes much thought. What if I told you. at the rate we're at 1 in 3 children born in the U.S. may have diabetes in their future? I was at Good Morning America this morning talking sugar for Good Morning America Health(I will add the link to the segment when I get it). The truth is, diabetes aside, most of us eat too much sugar. On average we have 22 teaspoons (88grams) of sugar a day. For women, that’s over 3 times the maximum amount we should consume.

I mentioned in a Halloween post last week that candy isn’t where we get most of this sugar. If you add soda and juice drinks together they account for 40 percent of our sugar intake. If we were to add coffee and tea-based drinks the number would be even higher. If you want to reduce your sugar intake or your children’s sugar intake start with a beverage intervention. Soda, smoothies, yogurt drinks, chai teas and mochas are full of sugar. Most of these items contain your day’s worth of sugar. Instead try Hint water, Ayala Herbal Waters, Ito En Teas Tea and Boylan’s seltzers for sugar free, sweetener free drinks.

As for better sweeteners, there is agave nectar, honey and stevia. You’re probably seeing these in many more products. Agave has received attention as a lower glycemic sweetener; this means agave raises your blood sugar less than sugar or corn syrup. It has a great taste and is fairly sweet. You don’t need a lot of agave to sweeten teas, dressings or on French toast or pancakes. Agave isn’t calorie free and should be portioned out. Organicville is a great brand of ketchup and Wings of Nature are delicious snack bars, both use agave for sweetness. As for stevia, I see it as a natural alternative to equal and splenda. Stevia is available in packet form; you’ll see it as Truvia and Purevia . Zevia is a stevia sweetened soda that a lot of people like. It is a very good option for diabetics. The downside to stevia is that some find it has a licorice-like aftertaste, see what you think.

In term of sugar free products, I am always a little leery. Many sugar free cookies, candies and gums use sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols end in –ol, you’ve probably seen sorbitol, maltitol or xylitol on ingredient lists. These sweeteners do raise your blood sugar, though not as much as sugar and can cause GI distress (aka gas or diarrhea) in quantities exceeding 10 grams. I tend to feel that sweet begets sweet and the more sweet we eat, “sugar free” or sweetened the more we will crave. My advice would be to stick to 1 sweet a day whether that’s a coffee drink or a sweetened yogurt and to choose more natural sweeteners whenever possible. If we could do that, add some fiber to our diets (oatmeal, fruits with skin) and sprinkle some blood sugar lowering cinnamon on our food…that would be the sweetest thing.
Where do you get sweet in your day? What sweetener to you use?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Market Foodtraining: Bright Sides

This is a guest post by Melissa O'Shea aka Market Melissa

It’s already November which means Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away. I never understood the logic behind using this day to gorge ourselves with lots of fatty food. Maybe it is because I am a nutritionist, but why can’t we celebrate, give thanks AND be healthy? For those of you who are with me on that, try celebrating seasonal foods with some of these nutritional powerhouses, yet sometimes forgotten veggies. Each week this month we will highlight a veggie we feel should make its way onto your dinner table, and a recipe we think we will be a homerun with your entire family.

 We often find when we’re eating something and can’t figure out why it tastes so good, there are often leeks involved. Leeks are in the allium family, related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions. They actually look like large scallions. Leeks are a good source of folate, iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. They also contain flavonoids and polyphenols, antioxidants widely shown to aid in cardiovascular support and prevent of some forms of cancer. All this for only 16 calories in ½ cup, cooked.

When shopping for leeks, look for firm and straight ones with dark green leaves and white necks. Avoid ones that are yellowed or wilted, or have bulbs that are cracked or bruised. The leaves usually have dirt in between them so be sure to wash them well before cooking or pick some up at Trader Joe’s, which are already cleaned and prepped. Leeks have a milder and sweeter flavor than onions and are perfect in soups or cooked in salads, such as the lentil salad recipe below. Leeks are available from fall to early spring, making them a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table.

Warm Lentil and Leek Salad (Adapted from Vegetarian Times)


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 leeks, white and green parts thinly sliced

2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

2 tsp whole-grain mustard

1 17.6-oz pkg. cooked lentils (Trader Joe’s has a great one) or 2 cups cooked lentils

1 ½ organic red seedless grapes, halved

¼ cup chopped roasted pistachios

3 Tbsp finely chopped mint

3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

¼ cup crumbled feta (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leaks and cook until translucent, about 7-9 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and stir in the sherry vinegar and mustard.

3. Combine the leek mixture with the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Top salad with crumbled feta cheese, if using. Enjoy!

Other recipes:
Giada’s Asparagus and leek soup

Leeks with Dijon vinaigrette
Have you cooked with leeks before? What are your favorite leek dishes you’ve made or eaten? What are your favorite fall vegetables?
For more information on market foodtraining or questions for Melissa you can email Melissa@foodtrainers.net or on Twitter @MarketMelissa

Monday, November 1, 2010

November Challenge

It’s November first today. A few of you may recall, when I set my resolutions that I mentioned I’d follow up on my progress on the 1st of each month. The good news is that I am fairly content in my results having run Chicago, started yoga (which I now would say I love) and I’m happy I set these benchmarks to carry with me and strive for. I also have to say that writing about these monthly is another story. Enough about me, I want to use today to challenge you. If you read this blog regularly (thank you I worship you) you’ll know that I dedicated my Chicago marathon to 2 important J’s in my life. Little J was at my apartment for trick-or-treating last night. I didn’t tell any of my friends about his ordeal and nobody, until told, suspected anything other than a costumed, candy craving child on a mission to collect big. He should be back in first grade soon and his mother, who I wrote about,well I saw her smile last night too.

Older J, has a name, it’s Jen but you can call her fearless Jen too. I saw fearless Jen on Friday. I email with Jen a lot but asked if there was a way I could come and see her. I wanted to see if I could help with her nutrition but I also just wanted to sit and talk. I went to Sloan Kettering to keep Jen company during a blood transfusion. Jen encouraged me to come early, before she got too groggy. I walked into the hospital room and a beaming Jen smiled at me. I met her mom too, also trying her best to be cheery. Her mom snapped the photo of Jen and me (above) for Jen’s You Fearless blog. Jen explained to me that the chemo she was on wasn’t helping and she was about to embark on another potent combination chemo. She is in a lot of pain at this point so it’s key that this next “cocktail” is effective. Yet no time with Jen is doom and gloom. Jen was busy recruiting nurses and hospital staff for Cycle for Survival. “Cycle” is an amazing event and charity started by Jen and her husband Dave. Cycle 2011 will be on February 12th and 13th and here is where your challenge comes in.

Cycle is currently in New York, Long Island, Chicago and as of last week San Francisco. Do not despair if you are not in these cities you can start a satellite team. There are 4 hour shifts that can be divided up. I do have to say the idea of the “extreme” option where you cycle for 4 hours appealed to my “aint no mountain high enough” side. You can decide what’s right for you. It’s winter and exercising outside is getting tougher. This is a great cause, a great goal and I encourage, ok implore, you to register. I know where I’ll be during Cycle. Jen looked at me on Friday and said “you’ll be on my team, team Fearless.”
Do you think you'll try Cycle or tell your friends about it? Do you have any J's in your life who inspire you? What are you fearful of?