Monthly Archive for: ‘March, 2014’

Diet vs Exercise…what is better for weight loss?

Weekly Wisdom
  • If you really want to see the scale number drop, what you put in your mouth matters most
  • Active lifestyles may not protect against obesity if people continue to consume a “Western” Diet (i.e. high in sugars, salts & processed foods)
  • Exercisers, however, are more successful keeping the extra weight off than non-exercising couterparts

Source: Michael Pollan Food Rules

Food Label Makeover


By now you have probably heard that the FDA has recently revamped the food label. A long overdue makeover (far from perfect) but it is a start. Ideally, we wouldn’t need food labels if all our food came directly from our garden & local farmer, but alas, in today’s world this is not always possible. So, what to make of the new food labels?


First, marketers are geniuses at creating misleading health claims that lure consumers into buying products that they perceive as healthy, so buyer beware.  The best remedy for this deception, look at the Nutrition Facts label.


When reviewing the label, here are a few things to consider: (source What to Look for on Food Labels)

Calories: Consider how the food fits in your daily calorie budget and compare with similar products. Pay attention to serving size.

Fats: While the focus is no longer on the amount of fat, check out the type of fat. The goal for saturated fat is less than 7 percent of your calories, generally around 15-20 grams. How much does this food contribute to your saturated fat intake? Does it contain trans fat? Best advice is to avoid buying if it contains trans fat (otherwise know as partially hydrogenated oils).

Sodium: The goal for sodium is to keep under 2,000 milligrams per day and that’s probably the biggest eye opener when looking at labels. If you choose a food that contains a fair amount of sodium, make sure the rest of your daily intake is lower. Often you will find a big variation in sodium content among brands.

Fiber: Fiber is beneficial for heart health and digestive function, so choose foods with higher fiber content. This generally comes from whole grains, legumes and beans, and fresh fruit and vegetables, so favor these to meet the goal of greater than 20 (ideally 25-35) grams of fiber per day.

Things to be aware of on food labels:

Gluten-free: It’s the current buzzword and it is essential that you avoid gluten if you have celiac disease, but don’t assume gluten free means healthier as some options are highly processed.

Natural: This tends to be popular for marketing purposes, but has no formal definition. Natural chips or beer don’t necessarily have any added nutritional benefit.

A green label: Yes, it is a selling point as people assume foods are healthier when the label is green as opposed to other colors. (not true)

Low fat: By definition, the product must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving, but keep in mind that it can still be high in sugar, sodium or calories.

Whole grain versus multigrain: Choose 100 percent whole grain to be assured it truly is whole grain. The “multi” label means that the product contains more than one grain, however, all of them can be refined.

Stress Busting Foods…a healthy diet can counter stress, Part 2

Weekly Wisdom
  • Fatty fish: High in Omega 3 (essential fat) & possible depression combatant. Aim for
    3oz 2 times per week.
  • Nuts: (almonds, pistachios, walnuts): chock­full of helpful vitamins. Snack on ~1 oz per day.
  • Exercise: The best stress buster yet. Aim for 30 minutes 3­-4 times per week.

What’s for Dinner?


I’ve really come to love cooking at home, especially for a big group. One of my favorite meals to create is an Asian feast. I’d been dreaming about it for months, so decided this past Saturday would be the day. If anyone is interested in specific recipes, I’ll be happy to share!

The menu

Beef satay: very thinly sliced & skewered, (homemade!) teriyaki marinated flank steak, grilled

Szechuan chicken: modified teriyaki marinade, kicked up several notches, grilled

Fried rice: has to be peanut oil. Sorry for those of you who can’t eat peanut products-it really does
make a huge difference! Sweet onion, white parts of green onion & cage free eggs sautéed in peanut
oil, combined with brown basmati rice (precooked & chilled!), and low sodium soy sauce.

Stir fried vegetables: splash of sesame oil, lots of garlic & ginger, sweet onion, bok choy, red/yellow/orange peppers, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts & baby corn.

Wontons: My favorite! Years ago, when my family first started making them, we used Jimmy Dean hot
sausage (I know it sounds weird, but trust me!), of course the staples-ginger, garlic, green onions, soy, sesame & some minced water chestnuts (they add great crunch!). We hand rolled each wonton, then fried them to golden brown. Great stuff, but loaded with fat! A few years ago, mom found a recipe
in a magazine for baked wontons. Use muffin pans, very lightly sprayed; press wonton wrappers into
pan, then spray very lightly again. Bake at 350F for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown & crunchy. For
the filling, I decided Saturday I’d try to knock off a bit more of the fat & calories by doing a 50/50 mix
of Jimmy Dean & ground chicken breast meat. I added a good bit more seasoning then I usually do-
especially garlic. Spoon fully cooked/hot filling into baked wonton wrappers at very last minute. They were, unanimously, the best wontons yet! Topped with homemade spicy mustard (Colemans mustard powder, water, juice of one orange, dijon mustard to taste). YUM!

I’m not a demonstrative person. I’m not really a hugger…don’t show/talk about my feelings, etc. But
the one way I do express myself…my favorite way to do so, is through food. Really tasty & healthy food, prepared with love.

Stress Busting Foods…a healthy diet can counter stress, Part 1

Weekly Wisdom
  • Choose Complex carbs (are digested more slowly): whole grain cereals, breads, pastas & “old­ fashioned” oats.
  • Citrus foods (orange) are high in Vitamin C which can curb levels of stress hormones.
  • Leafy greens(spinach): rich source of stress busting vitamin magnesium.

Gluten Free, is it Worth it?

It seems like everywhere you look, from the grocery store to the bookstore, there are articles and books claiming “gluten free” is the way to go.  For example, books such as Grain Brain and  Wheat Belly, report that by cutting gluten from our diet, we would not only be full of energy but that our brain function would improve significantly.  Does this sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, it probably is and all this misinformation about gluten free diets often gets in the way of educating consumers about the real reasons for following a gluten free diet.  Celiac Disease? Gluten Allergy?  Gluten Sensitivity?  What are the differences and the true incidence of these diseases? Celiac disease is a genetically linked autoimmune disorder that sets off an immune response that causes damage to the small intestine.  Celiac disease is life long & the only treatment for true celiac disease is a gluten-free lifestyle, a diet free of wheat, barley, rye & oats. Diagnosing celiac disease requires blood tests & an intestinal biopsy. Celiac disease is not to be confused with gluten sensitivity, which unfortunately has no tools to diagnose this condition.  Gluten sensitivity describes persons who exhibit symptoms similar to those with celiac disease, but test negative for celiac disease. It is important to note that these individuals do not have the antibodies and intestinal damage seen in celiac disease.


So, why do people report feeling so fantastic after going gluten free? First, the Standard American Diet, dubbed S.A.D., is high in sugars, refined flour & processed foods.  Many of the health benefits people claim from going gluten free are simply from eliminating the processed food in our diets.  Speaking of processed food, going gluten free does not mean an automatic elimination of these types of foods.  Browsing through our local grocery store I was amazed at the amount of highly processed gluten free products available.  The basis of gluten free diet is inherently healthy, no processed flours, high in fruits, vegetables & lean sources of protein.   It is important to note, however, that research does not support elimination of gluten from the diet unless diagnosed with one of the conditions described above.


So, what to do if you suspect an issue with gluten tolerance?  First, avoid self-diagnosis, which may result in unnecessary elimination of certain food groups.  It is best to make an appointment with a trusted physician and discuss your options for getting  an accurate diagnosis.



Gluten Intolerance Group of North America

Celiac Support Association



Yield: 13 cookies

Total Time: 20 minutes max!


1 cup bananas, ripe and mashed, about 2 large bananas
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips,

1 cup gluten free rolled oats
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional


Preheat the oven to 375F. Line two cookie sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and mix well. With a medium cookie scoop drop cookie batter onto the lined cookie sheets a few inches apart. Flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand and bake for 10 minutes.

Let them cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 days.