Thursday, December 30, 2010

The New Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers has been one of the most popular plans followed by dieters for almost 15 years.  Recently, Weight Watchers has redesigned their weight-loss plan, based on research on how the body metabolizes different types of foods.  Under their previous plan, Weight Watchers are given an individualized allowance of points depending on age, gender, height and current weight.  Food items were given a specific point value, which was based on total calories and adjusted for fat content and fiber. 

The new "PointsPlus" plan assigns point values to foods based on their protein, fat, carbs and fiber.  While the overall design is the same, with the message being to not "go over" on your total points, people are now given a higher number of points.  This can be confusing, particularly to those who are familiar with and have been following a Weight Watchers plan for years.  According to the NY Times article, on the previous plan the average member was allowed 22 points, whereas on the new plan the average point value is 31.  Ultimately, "bad" food choices are still taking up a higher portion of total points, which discourages dieters from consuming these foods.

For more information on the new PointsPlus program, check out the WW website (

I'll still argue that Weight Watchers is probably the best "diet" out there, promoting increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods, while discouraging highly processed items.  Isn't that the message we health-conscious people are always pushing!?

Whether you're following a structured diet plan or just striving to eat healthier and feel well, Watching your Weight is always a good idea! :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Recipe Makeover-Spinach Artichoke Dip

Dips are always a big hit at holiday dinner parties, and one of my all time favorites is spinach artichoke dip!  The name can be misleading however, because in addition to healthy spinach and artichokes, it is packed with high-fat cream cheese and sour cream.  I recently came across this "lightened up" version in Cooking Light, and had to make it for the party we hosted this weekend!  It turned out just as creamy and delicious, with less total calories and fat. 

Yield: 5 1/2 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup dip and about 6 chips)


  • 2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free sour cream
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 3  garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1  (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1  (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1  (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2  (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1  (13.5-ounce) package baked tortilla chips (about 16 cups)


Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jingle All The Way!

This past Sunday my dad and I ran the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk in support of the Arthritis Foundation.  It was a cold, miserable and rainy day with a small turnout (undoubtedly due to the weather).  We each raised over $100 for a good cause, so in the end it was worth it!  I ran in 28:40, which I am happy with given how terrible I felt the entire run, getting pelted by cold rain! Happy Holidays and Happy Running! :)

Jingle Bell Jog, Dec. 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Food Gifts

If you're on a budget but still need some gifts for family, friends or co-workers, why not give the gift of food!? Get creative and use glass jars or festive foil to wrap your goodies.  Here are a few ideas for healthy holiday goodies to share with all:

-Granola (mix together dried fruit, oats, nuts, cinnamon and a little honey!)
-Homemade Jam or Jelly (try this recipe for Pomegranate)
-Fresh Tomato or Pesto Sauce  (red & green!)
-Soup in a Jar (here's a recipe for a healthy bean soup!)
-Oatmeal Cookie Mix

There will be more healthy holiday recipe ideas to come! Enjoy! :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turket Trot 2010

This Thanksgiving, I was thankful to be able to run in the Turkey Trot 5-mile race.  The course was much more hilly than I am used to running, but I pushed through and ended up with a time of 47:48:10 (9:34 pace). 

Turkey Trot 2010
 My dad ran the 25K race, and I am proud to say he followed his hydration and nutrition plan perfectly and did very well!!!

Dad, Trotting along the 25K route

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Food Trends for 2011

This week, Phil Lempert, "The Supermarket Guru", released his list of food trends we should watch for in 2011.  Click here to read the entire article and all the other great information Lempert posts, but below is a brief list of the trends we will be seeing in the upcoming year.

-A focus on whole foods versus single nutrients or ingredients

-Easier to read (& understand) language on nutrition labels

-Using product barcodes to "checkout" as you move through a supermarket, but also to provide information on the product

-"Food Apps"-from pre-ordering at restaurants to discounts and specials via text message

-A focus on seafood, particularly from the Gulf Region

-Promotion of Vitamin D fortified foods

-Beverages with less carbonation and combinations of real fruit juices.

-"Regional" foods instead of only "local"; concentration will be on the taste and cultures of an area

-A renewed sense of social responsibility: Consumers are expected to tackle issues including hunger, humane treatment of animals and public policy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


"The key question to keep asking is: Are you spending time on the right things? Because time is all you have."-Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I think the holidays tend to bring out the best and sometimes the worst in us!  Many people become fixated on preparing the perfect turkey or getting the best Black Friday deals.  Above all of that, I hope everyone takes a minute (or longer) to consider the meaning behind the holidays.  Thanksgiving is a chance for us to contemplate what it is we are truly thankful for.  It is also a time for us to GIVE back.  We should be giving what we can all year long, but particularly during the holidays when the spirit is amongst us.  If there's one thing I've learned from living in the NYC area, it's that things can always be worse.  There's nothing like leaving a bad day of work, and on the way home passing a homeless person begging for their next meal.  Someone always has it worse than you, so there's always an opportunity to give back.

I am more than excited to say that I am going to begin volunteering with CityHarvest, an organization in NYC that strives to end hunger through food rescue and distribution, along with food and nutrition education.  This past week, I attended a volunteer orientation and am looking forward to teaching basic nutrition to those in need.  CityHarvest is a fantastic organization but there is no end to the list of places in need where you can donate your time or money. 

So please take the time this holiday season to stop and think about what you are thankful for and how you can pay it forward.  Give to those in need, donate whatever money you can spare (a little goes a long way), or volunteer your time and skills. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Restaurant Review: La Isla, Hoboken, NJ

La Isla Restaurant, located on Washington Street in downtown Hoboken, NJ may not look like much from the outside, but the charming atmosphere and delicious Cuban cuisine will blow you away!

La Isla Restaurant
104 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ
After moving down to the metropolitan area of NYC, I quickly learned that going to Brunch on the weekends is definitely THE thing to do.  I've tried many places that offer the traditional brunch foods: pancakes, omelettes, and eggs.  For two years, I had heard about the amazing food at La Isla, but had never gotten around to eating there.  La Isla's owner Chef Omar was even on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the FoodNetwork.  The episode featured La Isla's signature brunch dish: Omar's Stuffed French Toast, which beat Flay hands down.  As such, when we finally visited La Isla this morning, I just HAD to try it!  The dish consists of two thick slices of bread filled with a strawberry and guava cream cheese.  The bread is dipped into a cinnamon batter and coated with corn flakes and crunchy almonds.  Simply put, it was amazing.  My friend ordered a more traditional item: La Isla Huevos Rancheros, which is two eggs covered in a spicy tomato sauce inside a crispy tortilla shell with black beans and a side of rice.  This was also absolutely delicious!
Strawberry & Guava Stuffed French Toast
Huevos Rancheros
In short, the rumors are correct.  La Isla is surely a treasure in the mile square that is not to be missed!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taste the Rainbow

No, I'm not telling you to go grab some Skittles! To get the maximum health benefits from your diet, try choosing foods (particularly fruits and vegetables) that are all colors of the rainbow! Increasing variety prevents boredom and ensures that you get all of the nutrients your body needs. Fruits and vegetables are delicious and tend to be low in calories, high in fiber, and easy to find. 

Whether you're trying to create a nutritious meal or build a healthier snack, try eating from the rainbow!

Red: Apples, Strawberries, Cherries, Beets, Red Bell Peppers, Watermelon, Cranberries

Orange: Oranges, Sweet Potatoes, Squash, Pumpkins, Mangoes, Nectarines, Peaches, Carrots

Yellow: Bananas, Yellow Bell Peppers, Pineapple

Green: Apples, Avocadoes, Pears, Spinach, Broccoli, Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus

Blue/Purple: Blueberries, Plums, Raisins, Eggplant, Grapes, Potatoes

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What About the Twinkie?

Professor Mark Haub of the Kansas State University human nutrition department has recently found himself in the news by completing a junk food diet experiment.  He decided to test out the idea that if calories in are less than calories out, weight loss will occur no matter what foods those calories come from.  For two months, Professor Haub  followed a diet of less than 1800 calories per day, with the calories coming from foods like Twinkies, Doritos and Little Debbie Snacks.  While he admits to also eating healthier snacks such as carrots and celery, he purposely avoided whole grains, fruits and meats to keep his calorie count down.

Haub lost 27 lbs over the 2 months, lowered his LDL cholesterol, increased his HDL cholesterol and decreased his total triglycerides. 

This may seem especially frustrating to those who are trying to lose weight "the right way", but it ultimately isn't shocking.  The key to this story is the fact that Professor Haub was overweight prior to beginning his experiment, and the 1800-calorie plan he followed represents half of the calories he took in before the diet.  Professor Haub decreased the total amount of calories he was taking in, which will of course result in weight loss.  While the health benefits associated with losing weight are innumerable, in Professor Haub's case, we aren't seeing the long-term impact of consuming high-calorie, high-fat snack foods.  Not to mention the negative side effects from not taking in enough beneficial fruits and vegetables.  The other interesting piece of this story is that Haub himself is not recommending his diet for others, admitting that there are likely unseen long-term effects of eating in this manner.

So, should you be lowering your total caloric intake? Most likely, yes.  Should you be filling those calories with snack foods like twinkies? No! Stick to nutritious snacks like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.  Happy (and healthy) snacking! :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Scoop on Sodium

By now you've heard that salt (or sodium) is linked to increasing blood pressure and risk of heart disease.  It does this because salt attracts the water in your blood vessels, causing more water to be released, thus increasing the total amount of fluid in the vessels, and therefore blood pressure. 

Salt does have a variety of purposes in foods, including flavor enhancing and preservation.  It is essential to the body, although in very small amounts.  The body needs about 200 mg of sodium a day for proper function, and the American Heart Association recommends an intake of 1,500 mg or less each day.  Studies show that a typical American consumes over double that amount everyday! 

Foods that are typically high-sodium include most canned products, soups, condiments, and pre-prepared foods.  Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label and try to choose foods that say "unsalted" or "no added salt".  If possible, choose fresh or frozen foods with no added salt.  Instead of using the salt shaker to flavor your meals, try adding spices, herbs or just black pepper.  Finally, remember that it will take some time for your tastebuds to adapt to reduced sodium in the diet, but you will begin to appreciate the true tastes of your food!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

ING NYC Marathon Sunday!

Congratulations to all running the 41st ING NYC Marathon this morning! Today, over 43,000 people from across the world are participating in one of the greatest road races in history, and it is nothing but inspiring.  The weather is amazing and although I am following the race on TV this morning (rather than out there along the course) I can just feel the excitement in both the runners and the crowd!

I am lucky to have an amazing runner role model in my father, who has completed the NYC Marathon and several others in his lifetime.  In a few years, I hope to be ready for a full marathon myself and the ING NYC Marathon is definitely on the top of my list! Again, congratulations to all marathon runners today and in the future! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nutrition and Health Claims

You probably know you should be checking the Nutrition Facts label on food items you are eating.  But with all the health claims and nutrients listed, sometimes it's tough to figure out what exactly you should be looking for! What does it mean if something is "low-fat" or a "good source of _____"? The Food and Drug Administration has established guidelines on what food products can claim on their packaging. 

Here are the common health claims you'll see and what they really mean:
"Reduced"= 25% less of the calories or nutrient than the normal product
"Light"= 1/3 of the calories OR 1/2 of the fat of the normal product
"Low-calorie"= Less than 40 calories (per serving)
"Fat-free"= Less than 0.5 gram of fat (per serving)
"Sugar-free"= Less than 0.5 gram of sugar (per serving)
"Low-sodium"= <140mg of sodium (per serving)
"Good source of"= Provides at least 10% of the Daily Value of a nutrient (per serving)

The FDA is taking a step in the right direction to further clarify food labeling through the "Front-of-Package Labeling Initiative".  This program will target products with food labels that give misleading messages of potential health benefits.  The initiative is working to ensure that claims made on the front of food packaging are truthful and useful in helping consumers make healthier choices.  Companies that are found to be in violation are given warnings and must respond within 15 days with how they are or will be taking action to make corrections.

So next time you're out stocking up on groceries, beware of the health claims on the front of packaging, and be sure to check out the Nutrition Facts label as well! Happy shopping! :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Today is Halloween and it's almost time for the trick-or-treaters to start making their rounds! Yesterday, I participated in the HoBOOken Halloween 5K race, which had a great turnout of festive Halloween runners! I placed 572 out of 1113, with a finish time of  29:17, which is a 9:25 pace, and my PR so far! So I'll take it!

Check out a few pics below and have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN! :)

Me after the HoBOOken 5k!

Yip Yip! (and he ran like that the whole time!)

Gu Girls! (my favorite costume!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hydration Information

Proper hydration is important to athletes and non-athletes alike. The weather may not be as hot anymore, but remember to stay hydrated throughout the day and especially during physical activity! Depending on where you look, the recommendations for fluid intake vary. To specifically tailor to your needs, try to drink at least half your body weight in fluid ounces. [So a 150lb. person would need to drink 75 ounces a day, or about 2.2 Liters.]
How can you monitor your hydration?
  • Urine color (it should be light-colored, similar to lemonade)
  • Thirst
  • Body weight/sweat loss (changes in body weight from pre- to post- exercise indicate hydration status)
What fluids and how much should you take in during physical activity?
  • For workouts less than 60 minutes, drinking water before, during(as needed) and after is a good choice.
  • For more intense activity lasting more than 60 minutes, aim to take in water and/or a sports drinks
  • If you tend to be a salty sweater, be sure to replace sodium loss (through foods, soups, sports drinks, etc)
*For a personalized plan to determine your hydration needs, seek the help of a Registered Dietitian and/or Certified Sports Dietitian! :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chilly Weather = Homemade Chili!

Now that the weather is really starting to get cold, we tend to want warm comfort foods! Soups and stews can be a great way to get warm and get your fill of vegetables too! This week I made a big batch of vegetarian chili without following a real recipe, just tossing in fresh delicious ingredients! Chili is super easy to make and making it yourself will fill the whole house with delicious aromas while letting you be in control of the amount of sodium, fat, etc.  Here are the main ingredients I used in mine:

-Crushed tomatoes
-Hot sauce
-Olive oil
-Kidney Beans
-Garbanzo Beans
-Green Peppers
-Diced up Veggie Burgers :)

Whether you choose meaty or vegetarian style, chili is the perfect recipe for cold fall days! Enjoy! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut!

Today, October 22, 2010 is National Nut Day!

Nuts can have a variety of health benefits, including weight management, diabetes control and heart health.  Although nuts are high in fat, they are mostly unsaturated healthy fats.  The key to incorporating nuts into the diet is definitely moderation!  The Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming up to 1.5 ounces of nuts daily, but what does that look like?  In general, a "handful" of nuts is about 1 ounce.  If measuring tools are helpful, 1.5 ounces usually is equivalent to 1/3 cup of nuts.

Types of nuts to snack on:
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Macadamias
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
All of these nuts are somewhere around 150-200 calories per ounce, but again have great heart healthy fats that will help you feel full!  Enjoy nuts by themselves or sprinkle them on salads, cereals, yogurts, etc.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


People choose to become vegetarian for a variety of reasons including animal rights, dislike of meat, health, ecological, and religious beliefs.  Whether or not you're looking to be a vegetarian, going meatless a few days a week is a delicious and healthy way to cut calories and decrease dietary fat intake!

Vegetarian diets are simply plant-based and focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  However, the term "vegetarian" can mean different things to different people, so here are some common types defined:

Lacto-vegetarian: Includes dairy but no eggs
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Includes dairy and eggs
Pescatarian: Includes fish and seafood
Vegan: No meat or animal products at all (including dairy)
Flexitarian: Includes meat/dairy on rare occasions or in small amounts

Critics of vegetarianism often argue that the diets lack protein, B vitamins, calcium (if vegan)iron, magnesium and zinc.  In agreeance with the position of the American Dietetic Association, it is entirely possible to meet your needs of all vitamins and minerals while following a vegetarian diet. 

Here are some great vegetarian foods to consume in order to get all the essential nutrients:
  • Tofu
  • Beans (kidney, garbanzo, black beans, navy, white, etc)
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Tempeh
  • Bulgur
  • Whole Grains (quinoa, wheatberries, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, etc)
Click here for some great recipes for vegetarian meals and side dishes! Happy eating! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Billy Goat 5K Race

Yesterday, my dad and I ran the Billy Goat 5k, a trail run that goes through James Baird State Park in Pleasant Valley, NY.  This was my first trail run and although it was challenging, I enjoyed it a lot! I had been warned that the course was essentially 1.5 miles uphill followed by 1.5 miles downhill, but the up seemed to go on much longer.  I have to admit, I think I preferred the uphill sections, since sprinting downhill is not my favorite. Running downhill is a constant fight against gravity and a lot of pounding on the knees.  Trail running is challenging because you have to keep your eyes on the ground to avoid all the rocks, roots and puddles. 

In the end, we finished with a time of 33minutes 30seconds, placing 100th out of 125 runners.  It was definitely not the fastest time, but I felt good, am proud of us for running and will definitely do it again next year!

Now it's time to break in my new clean running shoes...happy running!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Advances in Clinical Nutrition: October 7-9, 2010

For a class assignment, I was required to attend a professional conference and write a report.  This past weekend, October 7-9, 2010, the American College of Nutrition held it's 51st Annual Meeting, "Advances in Clinical Nutrition" at the NY Academy of Medicine in New York City.  Attending professional conferences such as this can provide great insight into the recent developements in nutritional research, however they can cost a lot of money.  Luckily, I was able to work with the meeting coordinator and volunteer to avoid paying. 

I sat in on Symposium IV of the meeting, entitled "Dietary Patterns and Health Outcomes: Current State of the Science".  While I won't bore you with the details, the take-home message was the health benefits associated with consuming a Mediterranean Diet.  This is diet pattern has certainly gained a lot of media attention, but the concensus is that most people don't know what makes up a "Mediterranean Diet".  And the truth is, it varies based on what culture you look at.  For example, Greeks focus on a higher fat content compared to Italians who consume more carbohydrate (pastas!) over fat.  A Spanish based Mediterranean diet highlights fish and seafood, for obvious reasons.   

However, there are several common threads that make up Mediterranean style meal patterns, including:
  • Plant foods (lots of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, cereals)
  • Focus on fish & poultry
  • Less red meat
  • Moderate fat intake (primarily from Olive Oil)
  • Red Wine (usually with a meal)
When compared with a Western diet pattern (consisting of refined grains, meat, butter, high-fat dairy, etc), there is no doubt that Mediterranean Diet patterns have more health benefits.  Studies show lower incidence of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease among those following Mediterranean diet patterns.  So go ahead and enjoy that glass of red wine! And as always, all things in moderation! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Have a Healthier Halloween!

Halloween (my favorite holiday!) always gets a bad rap for leading to cavities and candy binges.  However, it is entirely possible to have a healthy haunting season by making some smart choices!

Here are a few healthy Halloween tips:
1. Try buying candy you and your family DON'T like as the sweets for trick-or-treaters. 
2. The snack-size candy bars can be a great portion control, as long as you can resist temptation and keep it to one or two pieces.  If not, best to just not buy them in the first place. 
3.  Bake up some pumpkin seeds to munch on while acting as candy-distributer.  Pumpkin seeds are packed with a ton of vitamins and minerals and have been linked to lower cholesterol and prostate health.
4. Get active by spending a day at a pumpkin patch or corn maze, raking leaves or stuffing your own scarecrow!
5. Enjoy candy in moderation: separate out your favorites and dispose of the rest!
6. Get rid of extra unwanted candy to programs like Operation Shoebox, which sends care packages to U.S. troops all over the world.
7.  Protect your pearly whites by brushing and flossing after having your treats!

It's good to know you can indulge without blowing your daily caloric budget, so I've included some lower calorie candy options below:

Lollipops: Dum Dum's ~25 calories each, Tootsie-Pop ~60 calories each
Hershey's Dark Chocolate Kisses: 180 calories for 9 kisses
York Peppermint Patties: 1 Large Patty= 140 calories or 3 miniatures= 150 calories
Twizzlers(or other Licorice): 4 Twists (strawberry)= 160 calories
Swedish Fish: 140 calories for 19 fish
Sugar-Free Gum: ~5 calories for 1 piece

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exploring the Food Guide Pyramid

First, let me ask a few questions:
Have you heard of the Food Guide Pyramid?
 Did you know it was revised in 2005 and changed into the "MyPyramid"?
After critiquing the MyPyramid as a class assignment, it seems that the general population is not even aware that such a resource exists or is available to them!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  It provides an interactive experience in learning about food and nutrition, as well as individualized suggestions for calories, servings per day, meal plans and more. The site does have certain limitations, but allows users to create individual profiles and track their daily food intake.  These are services people seek out in websites such as Weight Watchers Online or South Beach Diet Online, but are provided for FREE!

While the website lacks cultural sensitivity and is only available in English or Spanish versions, it can provide some fun and interesting tips on reaching your daily food requirements!  I hope the next revision of the pyramid will take alternative diets into consideration, such as vegan and vegetarianism.  I find it a conflict of interest for the USDA to develop such a program and promote milk and meat, as they are producers of those items.  Many people choose not to include dairy or meat in their lives, and should be able to use the MyPyramid materials as well. 

For another interesting take on healthy eating, check out The Healthy Eating Pyramid.  It was developed by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health as an alternative to the USDA model, and focuses on daily exercise and weight management.

Both sites are worth checking out, clicking around and getting some new nutrition tips!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Straight from the Farm

Farmer's Markets are great venues for finding locally grown produce.  The foods are almost always more fresh, nutritious and delicious than larger grocery stores and many times cost less!  Another popular trend is joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Essentially, you buy a "share" from a local farmer and receive a weekly supply of seasonal produce.  Both farmers and share-holders are subject to risks and benefits of the program.  However, CSA's are beneficial to the enviornment and allow for a connection between the farmer growing the food and the individuals who are consuming it.  They also allow families an opportunity to introduce new foods and healthy cooking options.

Farmer's Market in West New York, NJ
October 2010

Find a CSA or Farmer's Market near you by checking out LocalHarvest!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Must-Read Books!

If you're interested (like I am) in learning as much as you can about food and proper nutrition, there are certainly some fantastic informative and interesting books that I've stumbled upon in the last few years.  I'm a big Rachael Ray fan so I did include one of her recipe books, but all the others are intelligent and informative reads that cover WHY we eat, WHAT we eat, and HOW we should change our ways!

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink
2. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
3. My Life on the Run, by Bart Yasso
4. Rachael Ray's 30-minute Get Real Meals
5. Food, Inc. (Participant Guide to the film version)
6. Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
7. Food Rules: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
8. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (can you tell I really enjoy his stuff?)

And a few I'm looking forward to reading soon:
1. The China Study
2. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, by Dr. Walter Willett (*Dr. Willett is a professor of the Harvard School of Medicine, which released a very interesting alternative to the USDA's MyPyramid: Healthy Eating Pyramid)

I can honestly say these books changed the way I think about food production, preparation and consumption. Get reading and get informed!  :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Apple a Day

I've already mentioned how much I love fall and the seasonal foods that go along with it! One of my favorite recipes (stolen from my mother's great recipe archive) is Apple Crisp. Apples are very easy to bake with and create delicious desserts and amazing aromas.

One medium apple contains around 80 calories and is loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health, preventing colon cancers, and lowering cholesterol.  Apples also contain the flavonoid Quercetin, which has antioxidant properties and promotes heart health and reduce cancer risk. 

For a fun weekend activity, go apple-picking or head out to a farmer's market to get apples at their freshest! If you don't have the time, they are readily available at supermarkets (or try the NYC Green Carts!).  Apples are great to just snack on or can easily be incorporated into salads, glazes and many desserts!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

One Expense We Should NOT Be Paying!

One of my favorite resources for the newest research and information in nutrition is the NY Times.  On September 27, 2010 the New York Times posted this report: Obesity Costs Women More.  The CDC estimates that Americans spend about $147 billion a year on the direct and indirect costs of obesity.  The report by researchers at GWU caught my attention because they break down the costs to the individual level, showing that obese women have double the annual expenses as their male counterparts.  This doesn't even take into consideration health costs down the road (such as medications for Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia, etc). 

As we all know and hear, the rates of overweight and obese Americans are steadily climbing, and we need to take action now! I love Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity: Let's Move! because it encourages physical activity and healthy food choices, as well as demands action on the community and political levels.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Oat Bars

I'm starting this blog right at the beginning of my favorite season: FALL! There are many reasons to love fall, not the least of which is the FOOD!  Apples, pumpkins, squash, and most root vegetables are at their freshest and most delicious right now!

Since one of my favorite things to do is modify recipes to make them more healthy and nutritious, I recently created a new verison of a typical pumpkin pie recipe.  Check it out below and try it for yourselves!

Pumpkin Pie Oat Bars

1/2 cup Smart Balance margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 egg + 2 egg whites
3/4 cup white sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can non-fat evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine butter and brown sugar.  Add in flour and oats.  Press oat mixture into 9X13 baking pan.
3.  Bake oat crust for 20 minutes until slightly brown.
4. In a large bowl, combine eggs and sugar.  Mix in pumpkin and evaporated milk. 
5. Add salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves to pumpkin pie filling. 
6.  Pour filling over pre-baked oat crust.
7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool and serve. 

*Makes 24 pumpkin pie oat bar squares!