Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Yummy Lunch

I recently returned from a work trip in Greenville, NC. While there I had dinner at a little cafe that served over 10 different salads. The one I ordered was delicioso!

So for lunch today I made a modified version based on what I had on hand in the fridge. (Yes, I already had feta and pesto on hand...we use them for homemade pizzas and they don't go bad for a long time.)

Without further adieu, here is what was on my tasty salad:
  • Baby spinach (organic from TJ's)
  • Diced celery (organic from Papa Spuds)
  • Diced carrots (organic from Papa Spuds) If you haven't tried organic and/or local carrots, I highly recommend you do. They really don't cost much more than conventional and they taste a lot better.
  • Diced red pepper
  • Sliced black olives (these are one thing that are permissible to eat from a can) ;)
  • Instead of dressing, I added about 1 T of pesto to the diced veggies and then topped the spinach with them. Pesto has a bad rep for being high in calories, but you have to eat a lot of it to for this to be the case. 1 T is only about 60 calories. And you don't need much of it...a little goes a loooong way. Try it with pasta or on pizza if you haven't before. It really makes a great pizza pie. Or maybe try making your own. We've experimented with making pesto from different herbs (traditionally it is made with basil) and most turn out very tasty.
  • I sprinkled the finished product with about 1 ounce of fresh, real, feta.
I also had an organic pink lady from Papa Spuds, a yogurt and a coke zero (I am not without my food vices and coke zero is one of them....but that's what makes me realistic!)

For dinner I will be making a mango asian noodle salad borrowed from the Food Blogga.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Study Shows More Exercise Is Needed

A new study published in JAMA shows that women need to exercise more than we think + watch or cut calories to avoid weight gain as we age.

Read the sobering summary here.

Are you getting enough exercise/physical activity?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What I'm Eating: Edamame

When I first encountered edamame over 10 years ago I didn't know what to do with it. I was at a Japanese restaurant and before our meal came, the server brought us a small bowl of fuzzy, green peas. I had no idea how to eat them. So I picked one up and popped the whole thing in my mouth. It was fuzzy and stringy and very hard to chew. But it looked healthy and I liked the saltiness, so I kept eating. When the bowl was nearly empty I noticed another diner eating his pods by scraping them between his teeth, so as to avoid consuming the fuzzy, tough exterior. I tried this and found it not only easy, but fun and much much tastier. I was a little embarrassed, but happy to have learned and tried something new.

Now edamame is much more mainstream and can be found in most supermarkets and even has it's own website. It's also one of my favorite snacks.

Edamame, which is a fancy name for boiled green soybeans, are/is tasty and healthy.
The little green beans provide:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Heart-healthy fats
  • Folate
  • Magnesium

They also provide all the benefits of consuming soy, without the processing of tofu or other derivations.

I prefer to eat my edamame directly from the shell. It takes some effort, so it forces me to slow down and enjoy them rather than gobble them down like a handful of shelled nuts. I like buying them frozen, "steaming" them in the microwave, dusting them with a touch of salt, and then following the strategery of the man I observed so long ago at the restaurant. They even have bags you can microwave them in, eliminating the need for a bowl or plate. I keep a bag or two in my freezer at work for an afternoon snack.

You can also purchase them shelled. You may have seen them in this form on a salad bar. You can toss the shelled beans onto a salad or mix them into a stir fry or pasta dish.

A simple search on one of my favorite recipe websites yielded 72 results. Ohhhh....I simply must try the Egyptian Edamame Stew!

Some time ago I hosted a dinner party for eaters reluctant to eat anything green, healthy or "vegetarian." For an appetizer I made baked wontons filled with a mystery ingredient. I waited until everyone had tried them and I could get an honest reaction before I shared what it was. Edamame! And they were a huge hit!

At the moment I can't find the actual recipe, but I think it went something like this:

Edamame Wontons

You will need:
  • One package, shelled frozen edamame
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Wonton wrappers (can be purchased at most grocery stores including Super Walmart)
  • Water
  • S & P
  • Fresh herbs, if desired
To prepare:
  1. Set oven to 400 degrees
  2. Microwave edamame as instructed on pack
  3. Add 1.5 cups of edamame to food processor
  4. Add ginger and lemon juice to blender
  5. Add about 3 T of water, just enough to moisten the ingredients but not to make it soupy.
  6. Add a pinch of S & P to taste and any herbs if using them.
  7. Process until consistency of guacamole. It can be a little chunky or more smooth, depending on your preference. Just don't let it become to soft and liquidy.
  8. Lay wonton wrappers out flat. Place a small amount of edamame mixture into the center. (Add less than you think you should so it will close.) Moisten the edges of the wonton, fold over, and press to seal the edges. Continue filling wrappers until mixture is gone.
  9. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  10. Lay out wontons on cooking spray. They can touch, but should not overlap.
  11. Bake in oven ~10 minutes, flipping once in the middle, until brown and crispy.
  12. Serve with soy sauce, tamari, chili sauce, sweet and sour sauce or any asian-ish sauce you like!
If you have a yummy edamame recipe, please share! Or if you try them for the first time after reading this post, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Rules For Eating Out Without Doubt

Based on a presentation I recently developed and delivered, here are my tips for eating out healthfully:
  1. Find the fat & cut the calories
  2. Rethink your drink
  3. Shake the salt
  4. Right size your portions
  5. Know before you go
  6. It's your task to ask

1. Find the fat & cut the calories:
  • Don't add extra calories to your salad and try to remove those that come with it (dressing, croutons, egg, nuts, etc.)
  • Stay away from fried foods.
  • Order your protein baked, broiled, grilled or steamed.
  • Watch the portion size of your carbs.
  • Substitute veggies, salad, soup for sides.
  • Watch the toppings and extras. Look for low calories alternatives like lemon and vinegar.
2. Rethink your drink:
  • Reach for water first
  • Limit soft drinks and sweet tea.
  • Order soda or seltzer water with lemon.
3. Shake the salt:
  • Eat at made to order restaurants, not fast food or buffets, when possible.
  • Look for nutrition facts.
  • Ask for no added salt during preparation and add it yourself at the end.
4. Right size your portions:
  • Learn the proper portion size for carbohydrates, meat, cheese, etc.
  • Take the portion distortion quiz at
  • Order an app instead of entree
  • Share
  • Order a kid's meal
  • Put half your meal in a doggy bag...before you even eat.
  • Skip the combo or upsize option.
5. Know before you go:
  • Visit the restaurant website for menu and nutrition information.
  • Visit a general website for nutrition facts on specific types of food.
  • Call the restaurant and ask about menu change options.
  • Talk to your server about your restrictions, concerns and options.
  • Purchase and carry a nutrition facts book.
6. It's your task to ask:
  • Don't assume you can't eat something healthy when eating out.
  • Do the research if you can.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Choose establishments wisely.
  • It never hurts to ask the server or chef. Even if it isn't on the menu, there might be something tasty and healthy they can prepare.
  • No excuses. Your choices are your responsibility. But help is out there. Just ask.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Do You Know A RD?

March 10, 2010 is the 3rd annual Registered Dietitian Day.
According to the ADA, "as the nation's food and nutrition experts, registered dietitians are committed to improving the health of their patients and community. Registered Dietitian Day commemorates the dedication of RDs as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world."

Do you know a RD? (Ahem, ahem). If you have sought advice, nutritional assistance or medical nutrition therapy from a RD, it might be a nice gesture to take this day to say thanks. Or, if you haven't, this might be the day to do so! To find an RD in your area, visit the ADA website and click on "Find A Registered Dietitian" on the upper right side of the page.

This isn't just a day/month to toot our own horns (although it is a time for us to try to get our messages out to the public.) Many individual RD's and local dietetic organizations will be hosting events throughout the month. For information on some in the NC area, contact me.

Do you know your BMI and Body Fat %?

There are a number of ways to calculate/measure/assess whether you are healthy, overweight, etc.

BMI = Body Mass Index

BMI is a number calculated using your weight and height. It provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. It is not 100% reliable for all body types, but it is a quick and dirty method you can use to determine if your weight is putting you at risk for health complications.

Use the CDC online calculator to determine your BMI.

Body Fat Percentage

BMI does not measure your actual body fat percentage, aka the percentage of fat your body contains.

Unfortunately it is not as easy to determine your body fat percentage. Be weary of online tools or cheap devices that claim they can calculate your body fat percentage. They do not work!

There are a number of methods, none of which are 100% accurate, but some are better than others. The gold standard method involves underwater weighing and is impractical for most people. Instead, there are two methods available to most people, which may require only a nominal fee if any.

Bioelectrical impedance determines the opposition to the flow of an electric current through body tissues. This can be used to calculate a person's total body water, which in turn can be used to estimate body fat.

Sounds scary, doesn't it?!? I've had it done several times and I assure you it is painless. You simply stand on what looks like a typical scale (you do have to be bare foot and you might have to deposit a tiny drop of water on each foot plate), after inputing some basic information about yourself and it gives you a response much like your home scale would but with additional information.

It is quick, portable and relatively reliable...if you are using a good machine. Many scales claim to measure body fat without actually doing so. The machines I used were property of my university and hospital. So to give it a go, I would look there first. Your local gym might have one as well, but I would ask questions about it to make sure it is legit.

A skin fold test is the tried and true, easy, quick method for determining body fat. I learned how to do this in school and, let me tell you, it can be tricky so consistency is key! To have this done, someone (preferrably someone trained and well-practiced) uses special calipers to pinch your skin in a number of specific places on your body. The thickness of these folds is a measure of the fat under the skin, also called subcutaneous adipose tissue.

It doesn't hurt, but you should be aware that some of the spots are a bit personal. So you may be most comfortable with a person of the same sex. You should also wear loose clothing or a t-shirt and shorts. The measurements are then entered into formulas that convert these numbers into an estimate of your percentage of body fat according to your age and gender.

You can typically have this done at any local gym. It may cost $10 or so. But look for promotions when it might be free. And remember to be consistent. Optimally, every time you have it tested, you should have it done by the same person using the same calipers and machine. If that isn't possible (and even if it is) remember that is just an estimate and is susceptible to human error so take it with a grain of salt unless you see a consistent pattern. I would also remember not to get it done too frequently. It takes awhile to really see a change (unless there are extenuating circumstances like sickness or being a participant on an unhealthy reality show.)

I'm posting on this topic because I recently had my body fat tested at the university gym. They were having a member appreciation day so it was totally free! (And I found out that they do free testing once a month on specific days.)

They used the skin fold test, but it was more technically advanced than I had seen before. Everything was computerized, except I still had to have a person physically pinch me with calipers. He pinched every spot twice to determine the best estimate.

And guess what?!? My body fat has decreased by quite a bit since the last time I had it tested a few years ago! While I've only lost a few pounds since then, my fitness level has dramatically increased. Since then I have re-committed myself to running and I have been doing some hard core strength training a few times a week. So even though my weight hasn't changed that much, my body fat has.

While your weight is a decent determinant of health risks, it isn't the only measure. You may weigh more than your thin friend, but still have a lower body fat % of be more fit. Even if that is not the case, knowing your BMI and body fat percentage arms you with additional ways to track your diet and fitness progress. Conversely, they can serve as a warning sign that you may be putting your health at risk.

And no, I'm not telling what my numbers are, nor will I ask yours. ;)