Archive for October, 2009

You can’t spell flu without F-U

October 31, 2009

sick kid

It’s already scarf weather in NYC and swine flu hysteria has become a regular feature on the news (last night they issued a warning during the World Series highlights!). I know you think you’re prepared. You’ve bundled everyone up before they go out into the bitter cold. You’ve got a “guy” to hook you up with some primo H1N1 vaccine. And you’ve dusted off the old chicken soup recipe.

But there’s more. And it’s easy.

Here are the facts. One big risk factor for flu infection is lack of vitamin D. The good news is our bodies produce vitamin D when we’re exposed to sunlight (That’s one reason we don’t get sick as often in the summer). But you’re probably not laying out at the beach a whole lot in the next few months. So let me make a suggestion: Cod liver oil. It’s chock full of vitamin D.

Wait, what? You’re not into sucking down a tablespoon of this delicacy? Relax, there are options. Wild salmon, mackerel, eel, tuna (canned in oil) or sardines (canned in oil) all are loaded with flu fighting vitamin D. Make them a staple over the winter.

Because you can only bundle up so much.

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Have a drink on me

October 28, 2009

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Many of my clients like to have a little drinky-poo here and there. (It’s always amusing to predict when they’re going to ask about alcohol in our initial consultation. The over/under is usually about seven minutes.) Now, I don’t have a problem including alcohol in a diet, but I do have some thoughts on what to drink. Surprise, surprise, these thoughts sound a lot like my thoughts on what to eat.

While you’re probably not going to quiz your bartender or waiter about their selection of organic, free-range, no-gmo drinks, you should remember these guidelines.

Just like I want you to stick with whole foods when you eat, try the same principle with booze. The more it’s processed, the worse it is for you. (A Pina Colada has more calories than a Big Mac. Maybe that’s why my husband started wearing sweat pants to work when he came back from Puerto Rico). Plus all the extra ingredients are just piling on calories, chemicals and junk that you just don’t need.

Beer, wine, hard liquor are my alcohol equivalents of whole foods. Don’t bother with mixers aside from water and seltzer. A lot of them are just sugar water and I know you’re not thinking about pouring diet soda in there.

Ultimately, alcohol is empty calories. Yes, it’s fun and it makes the worries of the day melt away, but it’s empty calories none-the-less. I’m not a big calorie watcher, but in this case, it does make sense.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to slip into something more comfortable. Like a martini.

Here’s to you.

Stand and deliver

October 14, 2009

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A million years ago when I was teaching eighth grade in East Harlem, my homeroom students would show up every morning armed with a Cuban sandwich. For breakfast! FYI, a Cuban sandwich is a pile of fatty ham, greasy pork and super melty cheese topped with pickles all soaking through some over-processed white bread. So, yeah. It’s not great for you.

Even back then I tried counseling them away from the McCoronary diet, but all I got for my trouble was some rowdy razzing for being “scrawny.” (Remember way back when being called scrawny was an insult? Today, in these jeans? Not so much.)

I became instantly nostalgic when I came across this recipe for a healthier version of a Cuban Sandwich in Clean Eating Magazine:

Ingredients:
1 lb pork tenderloin
1tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp Sucanat
1 ½ tbsp Dijon Mustard
4 five inch whole-wheat sandwich rolls, cut in half lengthwise
2 slices uncured ham (2oz) cut in half
4 oz Swiss cheese thinly sliced
1 cup loosely packed argula

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Rinse tenderloin and pat dry.  Mix cumin and paprika in a small bowl and rub all over surface of tenderloin.  Put tenderloin on a baking sheet and transfer to oven to roast, turning once or twice, for about 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 150-155 F.

Let pork rest about 5 minutes. Slice it into very thin rounds.  Cool completely before building sandwich. Spread Dijon on 1 side of each roll.  Stack about 6 slices (2oz) pork in each sandwich.  Add 1 slice of ham and 1 slice of cheese to each.  Divide pickled cucumbers and arugula evenly among sandwiches.

For bonus points, make your own homemade pickles.
Whisk vinegar and Sucanat together in a mixing bowl.  Add 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced. Toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Keep your remaining vinegar mixture from pickling to make a vinaigrette.)

Ah, if I only knew then what I know now. Those kids could have been eating healthy pork sandwiches and I could have reveled in my scrawniness.

Eye spy.

October 12, 2009

My eyesight is not great and I refuse to wear glasses or contacts. Which isn’t necessarily terrible. It gives me that Cybil-Sheppard-in-Moonlighting haze when I look in the mirror. That, I don’t mind. The trouble of course is when I drive, it’s Mr. Magoo time. Thank God I live in New York City and don’t own a car. Let me just say to all the other drivers out there, you’re welcome. And to you I say, let’s talk about eye health.

A new study from Tufts University finds that eating the right foods can drastically reduce risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration, a disease that impairs your sight as you age.

So what “right foods” should you be (ahem) looking out for? Try foods with a low-glycemic index and rich with nutrients that promote eye health – spinach, dried apricots, peanut butter, broccoli, red peppers and egg yolks. It’s never too soon to start mixing these into meals to make sure your family has the eye of the tiger and that twinkle in their eye and eye, eye captain and, oh forget it, there are just too many eye puns.

Here’s looking at you.

Say “Cheese!” No, wait!

October 8, 2009

sayCheese

“Low-fat cheese” used to be an oxymoron. But today, there are dozens of reduced-fat, low-fat, and fat-free versions of American, cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, and other cheeses that you may be tempted to bite into. Fat in this new generation of cheeses has been cut anywhere from 25 to 100 percent. But here’s the trade off: Most of them contain added gums and stabilizers that help simulate the creamy texture and rich taste of full-fat cheeses. Mmmmmm, gummy, stabile cheese.

While some people don’t mind the mildly artificial taste or texture and reduced-fat cheeses do offer an alternative for those trying to cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol, the nutritional drawback is that they are usually higher in sodium than the real deal. For example, an ounce of regular Swiss cheese contains about 74 milligrams of sodium. Reduced-fat Swiss contains up to 400 milligrams or more per ounce. Now, I’m no mathematician, but according to my calculations, that’s like the difference between Kirsty Alley circa 1985 and Kirsty Ally circa last week at the Weinerschnitzel on Cahuenga.

Hmmm, delicious taste and full fat or reduced fat and sodium overload. What’s a cheese lover to do? Well, you’ve got a few options. The first and most obvious one is the simple one. Suck it up and stick with the regular cheese, just eat less of it. Another option for cheese lovers is to expand your palette and use strong-flavored cheeses, such as Parmesan, blue, or gorgonzola. With these, a little can go a long way in terms of adding flavor. And if you’re really desperate for something super cheesy, ask my husband to borrow one of his casual Friday Hawaiian shirts. That ought to do the trick.

Don’t be a pansy. Cook.

October 7, 2009

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So many of my clients start off our sessions by saying they don’t cook. And by that, they usually mean “Can you just tell me what part of the Whole Foods prepared foods counter I should be browsing for dinner?”

Well, here’s the good news and the bad news all in one sentence: If you want to feed your family and yourself healthy food, you have to cook.

Why? Because if you don’t cook, you don’t really know what you are eating or feeding your family.

I’m not trying to sell you on any wild-eyed conspiracy theories about how major food companies subversively infuse their products with unholy, mad scientist concoctions. They do. But that’s for another day. I’m talking about making yourself knowledgeable about what goes in your family’s bodies. And that means learning to cook.

Now, when I say cook I’m not talking about wearing a puffy white hat and deciphering complicated French soufflé recipes. I’m talking about the basics. The stuff you actually have time to make. Plain, simple food. Sure, I would love to spend hours in the kitchen whipping up the perfect twelve course meal every day, but I also wish that I had won the lottery and my husband had a smaller nose. What are ya gonna do? In the real world, you have to make do with the time you have. And that means simple food.

No, I’m not going to teach you how to cook in one blog post, but I want you to get it into your head that you are going to learn how to handle meat, steam your veggies and bake a yam or two. And no, those are not euphemisms.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the basics that I want you to start learning, so get ready. And if you reeeeeally want to wear the puffy white hat, I’m okay with that.

My new obsession is nothing to sneeze at

October 6, 2009

milk_was_a_bad_choice-777706Do you ever smell your milk to see if it’s still fresh?  Do you question whether you should keep your bread in the fridge or on the counter?  Left your pizza out from the night before and then wondered if you could still put it in the fridge? I know I have. I’m pretty good at picking out the blatantly stale stuff, but even when something smells okay, there’s still that little voice in the back of my head wondering if it’s going to cause a mini pandemic of projectile vomiting in my home.

Enter my new obsession, StillTasty.com. StillTasty answers all of your food storage questions.

Who knew that apples can stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 weeks? Or that hard-boiled eggs with the shell can last 1-2 weeks?  StillTasty does and now so do you. The next time your little voice starts hinting that you’re about to feed your family a big batch of botulism stew, pop by Still Tasty.com. You’ll find out for sure whether you were about to jump the gun or your nose was right on the nose. Either way, it can save you some money and you’ll definitely get some peace of mind. And that never gets old.

When did the dinner hour become happy hour?

October 6, 2009

Kids Menu

Have you ever noticed that the unhealthiest items available in a restaurant are usually on the kids’ menu? Are we supposed to believe that someone really sat down and thought about kids when they made this ridiculous list of fried, battered, processed and often unrecognizable “food”?

Chicken fingers (a.k.a. fried chicken), grilled cheese (a pound of cheese grilled in between buttered, processed white bread, ouch!), hot dogs (oh, let’s not even think about what’s in those). What is this, happy hour?

Since when is bar food considered an appropriate option for kids?

Unless your child is pledging Delta Tau next semester, forego the landmine known as the kids’ menu and order for them from the real menu. Better yet, next time your family eats out, tell the little ones they’re getting a treat and they can order from the adult menu themselves. Steer them toward the appetizer section – The food there is already kid’s sized and probably a lot more healthy. And if nothing else, split an entrée with your child and call it an appetizer. (The food, not your kid.)

Eat more whole foods (and by that, I don’t mean eat the entire cheeseburger)

October 6, 2009

earth-friendly-eating-afOne of the best pieces of advice I give is to eat more whole foods. But that’s usually followed by a puzzled look and me explaining that I don’t actually mean shop at the local Whole Foods store more often. I’m referring to foods that are whole.

A whole food is something that has one ingredient – itself.  Say, an apple, nuts or a carrot. So the simple way to look at it is – Can you imagine it growing in nature? If so, then you’ve probably got a whole food on your hands. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a Double-Stuf Oreo tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not telling you to live on raw fruits and nuts for the rest of your life. But, you want your food to be processed as little as possible.

Another simple rule: Read your food labels, if there are more than 5 ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it. (Unless you have trouble pronouncing the words “wheat” or “flax” or things like that.)

Try this the next time you hit the store and see what a difference it makes.  Chances are you’ll have a “whole” new perspective on shopping.