Monthly Archives: July 2010

QSS to the rescue!!

This past week I must say, the idea of cooking anything in kitchen in this scorching humidity is so not my thing.  Even the simple task of making an omelet or veggie burger is just too much to handle.  What do I do when it’s an oven outside?  QSS = Quick summer salads!  This is the part where D would intervene with a “My favorite date night was when we had a summer salad and watched the film Chocolat”.  As bromantical as that sounds, salads are definitely not so prissy.  With the right add-ins, salads can pack a big protein punch, and when the weather gets hot, they are the perfect thing to fill you up, but not weigh you down.

Here are some great, quick salads that are in my repetoire along with my very own, heavily-requested, homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing recipe:

  • Lentil, apple, avocado:  Combine 1/2 cup lentils, 1/4 medium avocado, and 1/2 apple over arugula or spinach salad.  Toss with Newman’s own low fat Asian Sesame vinaigrette or balsamic.  If using balsamic, a dash of grated parmesan is also super yummy on top.
  • Taco salad:  Combine 1/2 cup black beans, 1/4 medium avocado, 1/4 lowfat mexican blend cheese, 1/4 or red. orange, or yellow bell pepper, and a couple of cherry tomatoes over romaine lettuce.  Use salsa and lime juice as dressing with a sprinkle of cumin on top.
  • Eggtastic salad:  For the crunchiest, most refreshing salad ever (when it’s a real scorcher outside) 1 hardboiled egg (choppped), 1 hardboiled egg white, grated carrots, sliced onions, sliced celery, 1/4 chopped bell pepper (any color), sliced radishes over spinach salad.  Top with whatever lowfat dressing you want (I like a vinaigrette).  I also add a couple shakes of turmeric (a spice that is very good for digestion and circulation and tastes super on salads).
  • Italian chicken salad:  1/2 grilled chicken breast, sliced or cubed, handful of halved cherry tomatoes, sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan, and a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts, serve over arugula and top with balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Israeli salad:  1/2 cup chickpeas, 1/2 cup cucumber, 1/4 medium avocado, handful of halved cherry tomatoes, 1/4 red bell pepper, served over spinach salad.  Mix with paprika, cumin, lemon juice, and a little balsamic vinegar.  Shalom!

Finally, the GS KICKASS balsamic vinaigrette:

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp walnut oil (olive oil and other interesting oils such as hazelnut, avocado, sesame, are all great too!)

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tsp honey or agave syrup

Whisk and combine!  Voila…a healthy vinaigrette!

Those are some basic recipes, but feel free to mix and match.  I love combining different lean proteins (chicken, tuna, legumes — chickpeas, lentils, black beans, veggie burgers (chopped up and added to salads), with various crunchy vegetables and some sort of healthy fat (nuts, avocado, olive oil).  Also, adding fruit is an awesome way to get fruit servings in and combine sweet and salty flavors (YUM).  Just make sure you don’t add too much of the more “rich” add-in such as cheese, avocado, nuts, and dried fruit — I try to do one in any salad to make it more satiating, but add them all and salad isn’t really a “healthy” food anymore.  I also prefer to either make my own dressing — dressing can be a huge source of sodium, or use a couple of very figure friendly, low fat dressings.  Newman’s Own makes some really awesome low-fat dressings and Annie’s low-fat Gingerly vinaigrette is another favorite.

Now let’s get chopping!

When your grocery store becomes your dietitian…

Let’s face it — making healthy choices often can be quite difficult.  One of the places where it’s often the hardest to pick the right things is the supermarket.  For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy store — so many choices!  so little time!  Unless I have a plan of attack, I often get sidetracked down an aisle, staring blankly at different nutritional data on cereal boxes and not sure which is the healthier choice.  Frankly, it’s just plain overwhelming — even for a nutrition student!

Now, imagine a world where you walk down grocery aisles, and each brand has a different numerical value based on how healthy a food is (on a scale of 1 = as healthy as eating lard straight-up to 100= a saintly choice).  It would totally take the guesswork out of grocery shopping!  Well, according to this article (sent to me by D’s dad, M) in the wall street journal, entitled  “The New Nutritionist: Your Grocer”, this numerical rating system may be coming to a grocery store near you.  According to the article, this rating system is part of a larger movement by grocery stores to offer their clientele sounder nutritional advice.  Here’s a little tidbit from the article describing the system:

Kroger’s scoring system is part of a nationwide move by grocery retailers to get pushier about offering nutritional advice. Other chains, such as Hy-Vee Inc. in the Midwest, are hiring dietitians to advise shoppers on how to select healthier food and, in some stores, walk the aisles offering personalized recommendations for a fee. Some grocers, like Safeway Inc., are mining data gleaned from loyalty cards on their customers’ purchasing habits to recommend healthier alternatives to the foods they buy. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the country’s biggest food retailer, plans to announce details of its own “nutrition program” later this summer, said a spokeswoman, who declined to elaborate.

Kroger, the second-largest food retailer by revenue after Wal-Mart, recently began testing the NuVal scoring system in some Kentucky stores and is considering using it nationally. The system, developed by health experts from Yale University and other institutions, uses nutrition data on food labels and other public information to calculate how well a product helps meet federal dietary recommendations. High levels of saturated fat, for example, can pull down the score while calcium can help raise it. Foods are ranked from 1 to 100; the higher the number, the greater the nutritional value.

In theory, this is a really great idea.  But, ultimately the ratings are based on the national food pyramid, which, although it is a great tool, is not the full picture in terms of having a healthy diet, particularly for those that are looking to lose weight (not everyone should be eating a 2,000 calorie a day diet — it really depends on your personal energy needs, weight, gender, etc…).  The rating system works best when comparing similar foods to each other (for example, different brands of cereal) rather than comparing ice cream to deli meat.  Granted, we all have our favorite brands — I for one could not go a day without Fage 0% greek yogurt (seriously…if i were stuck on a dessert island I would request that and a spoon), but it certainly helps to make customers more nutritionally aware.  My only concern is that this information is coming from a grocery store — which is definitely not an unbiased source.  They want you to buy their products, specifically, their more expensive products.

My take?  Definitely use these new rating systems to make yourself more aware — but take the information with a grain of salt.  The nutrional value of certain foods versus another is much more complex than one brand having more sodium than another — the best you can do is to educate yourself on what foods YOU like the most, which foods fuel you in the healthiest way possible, and which foods soothe your soul and make you feel super.

FOOD safety PSA

Hey folks!  Happy happy Friday.  Boy am I glad the weekend is here!  As some of you know…I’m currently taking a lovely class at NYU called “Food Microbiology”.  Believe me, it’s as exciting as it sounds (not at all).  However, there is definitely some big takeaways healthwise from the class that I want to impart with you.

Summer is by far the easiest time to get food poisoning.  Bacteria grow much better in hot, humid weather, and many summer foods lend themselves to bacterial growth.  For example, all those mayo-laden salads I’ve been warning you about — well not only are they totally unhealthy and artery-clogging, they present the perfect growth environment for our lovely friends, salmonella and listeria.  Any foods that are rich in fats will promote bacterial growth.  Here are a few simple rules that will keep you healthy, happy, and food-poisoning free.  Because let’s be honest, food poisoning is truly a buzzkill.

  • Keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold.

This is a pretty easy concept, but really is important.  The temperature danger zone is between 40 degrees Fahreinheit and 140 degrees Fahreinheit.  Any food that is within this zone for 4 hours MUST BE THROWN out.  Otherwise you could get really sick!  So cold foods need to be kept refrigerated and hot foods need to be kept warm so they stay out of this zone and are safe to eat.

  • Chicken, meat, and fish always need to be cooked all the way through.

Chicken should not have any pink in it when cut through.  Fish should be opaque all the way through (unless it’s sushi).  Meat has different coloring depending on how long you want to cook it: rare will be reddish in color, medium rare will be pink and well done meat will have no pink whatsoever.  If you want to be super careful — meat thermometers are really cheap and can be helpful too – chicken should read 165 to be done, meat will read around 160, and fish should read about 145.

  • Always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before using.

This seems like a total no-brainer, but fruits and vegetables have been handled by several people before they get to your fridge.  So be extra careful and give them a good rinse!

  • Wash your HANDS!

Is it just me or have I seen TOO many people simply leave the restroom without ever washing.  That’s just gross.  I know that YOU are probably not one of those people, but even when you’re in a rush, make sure to use soap and HOT water.

Those are my tips!  Have a great weekend folks and keep posted for some new, fresh, low-cal bbq recipes coming your way!

Middle eastern deliciousness in Nolita!

Last Saturday, after reading a great review in the New York Times, D and I decided to check out Balaboosta, in Nolita.  I’m always looking for new, healthy restaurants to go out to in New York city and I was definitely not dissapointed.  From the same lady (Einat Admony) who brought Taim (healthy falafel in the West Village), this place is a true Middle Eastern gem!  D and I shared a bunch of small plates — the hummus and pita were to die for (the pita was warm and doughy – not the cardboard style you get in grocery stores), the garden salad was lemony, fresh, and delicious, and the  grilled calamari bruschetta with tahini spread was absolutely divine.  As far as portion sizes, stick to sharing a bunch of the small plates – which are hefty even for two people, and a lot more interesting than what was offered on the main courses.  The best part — most of the food is really quite healthy — with a veggie-driven, organic focus and less use of fats to flavor the food.  I’m definitely going to be going back soon to try the carrot-puree, goat cheese pizza!

I HIGHLY recommend this place as a great date spot, and also a fun place to take friends.  The noise level can be quite high, so I recommend trying to snag a seat in one of the corners of the restaurant.  The best part – it’s a great meal that you don’t have to feel guilty about!

GS cooks : Skinny potato salad!

I don’t know about you but summer just makes me want to barbeque and grill everything!  Eating outside, with friends, and having some good old clean American fun is what it’s all about.  But, there are some definite fat traps that lie lurking at every barbeque.  One of the BIGGEST offenders is the classic potato salad.  It may have “salad” in the name, but this side dish is a calorie BOMB.  While potatoes aren’t bad for you at all, its the gloppy mayo that is thrown into the dish that makes it so pudge-inducing.  The average cup of potato salad contains about 358 calories, 20.5 grams of Fat, 170 mg of Cholesterol (57% of your daily value — how much cholesterol you CAN eat in a day), and a whopping 1323 mg of sodium (also more than half the recommended daily value for sodium).  That’s just gross.

So I did a little research, and found the most delicious, amazingly yummy, healthy potato salad out there.  And the best part?  No mayo whatsoever (the recipe uses a vinaigrette made with rice vinegar — a delicious sub!).  And how do I know it’s that amazing?  Besides having enjoyed it for the past 4 days now  – my mom and dad devoured it the last time I made it, and D asked to eat the last bit left at 11 pm last night.  So you know it’s THAT good.

Here’s the recipe courtesy of Cooking Light (takes about 45 minutes to do — a lot of chopping, but makes a HUGE batch so it will last for a while!):

DRESSING:
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:
5 cups cubed red potato (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped peeled cucumber
3/4 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 (2 1/4-ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1. To prepare dressing, combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

2. To prepare salad, place potato and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above potato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until tender; drain.

3. Add potato to dressing in bowl, tossing gently to coat; let stand 15 minutes. Stir in cucumber and remaining ingredients; toss well. Cover and chill.

CALORIES 90 (28% from fat); FAT 2.8g (sat 0.2g,mono 1.6g,poly 0.8g); IRON 0.9mg; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 19mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.9g; SODIUM 295mg; PROTEIN 1.8g; FIBER 2g

Cooking Light, APRIL 2008

ENJOY!!

Can sitting kill you? I hope not because I’m sitting right now….

I, like many of you, spend a lot of my day sitting.  Between class, the subway, going out to restaurants, watching tv etc…I get a lot of time in on my tush.  So I found this article about the effects of sitting for long hours in the New York Times Health section to be a little frightening…http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/phys-ed-the-men-who-stare-at-screens/?ref=health.  Here is a little excerpt:

In a study published in May in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, they reported that, to no one’s surprise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart problems. Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting.

Most of us have heard that sitting is unhealthy. But many of us also have discounted the warnings, since we spend our lunch hours conscientiously visiting the gym. We consider ourselves sufficiently active. But then we drive back to the office, settle at our desks and sit for the rest of the day. We are, in a phrase adopted by physiologists, ‘‘active couch potatoes.’’

Like you…I started to freak out a little.  So exercising will do nothing to counteract sitting on the couch!  What!  That’s so NOT FAIR.  But wait a sec…I continued to read the article and found that it isn’t just the exercise that counts but also the accumulation of “light intensity activities” that is supremely important.  This can be anything from household chores – mopping, cooking, changing light bulbs, to simply walking city blocks.  While exercise does not fully undo the effects of prolonged sitting, “You can…ameliorate the dangers of inactivity with several easy steps — actual steps.”  That means taking the stairs instead of the escalator, doing crunches while watching “Real Housewives of New Jersey”, and walking a few extra blocks every day instead of taking the subway.  It’s the little things that add up to a healthier lifestyle.  Luckily, living in New York, which is the ultimate walking city, we have plenty of opportunities to be active every day.  It’s a matter of being more conscious of how these little things can add up, and choosing to go against the gravitational pull towards the couch…and going for a walk around the neighborhood instead.

Got no time?? Try intervals…

It’s getting to be that time of the summer where it literally feels like THERE IS NO TIME.  Literally.  For anything.  And the weeks are just flying by like crazy.  All those summer trips, cookouts, and cocktails have added a little extra cushion for the pushin…and not in a good way.  I don’t know about you…but when it gets gross out my energy levels go way down…and doing an hourlong workout sounds like the seventh circle of hell.  What do I turn to when I’m in a midsummer rut?  INTERVALS.

What is interval training anyways?  Interval training is basically doing the same amount of work that you would get out of a longer workout, in a shorter amount of time.  However, the trick to interval training is upping the intensity in your workout.  Instead of doing moderate to hard activity for the entire workout, you add short energy “spurts”, where you up the intensity of the activity you are doing for a couple of minutes, and then recover.  So pretty much you get a break every two minutes AND you burn more calories.  Sound good?

So here’s how it works (30-35 minute workout depending on your activity level/amount of time you take to warmup):

  • Warm-up with 5-10 minutes of light-moderate cardio.
  • 4 minutes at baseline (what pace you’ll work from).  The baseline should be medium intensity, with your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), at a 5.  The RPE is a scale from  1-10 of exertion during exercise, with 1 being “i could do this all day” and 10 being “if I do anymore I will puke my guts out all over the gym floor”.
  • 1 minute of “work set” at RPE of 7 or 8 (depending on workout level)
  • 2 minutes baseline
  • 1 minute work set
  • Keep repeating between baseline and work sets five more times.
  • 5 minutes COOLDOWN

That’s it!  Now throw on some Lady Gaga, and get your butt in gear!