Eat Right Around Chicago

Diet Archives

Can You Eat Right Around Chicago?

Since the fall of 2009, I have been traipsing, tasting and touring the great city of Chicago.  I have wined and dined with an aim to eat right from Andersonville to Lakeview, the Pilsen and all around the Loop.  I can't possibly remember every location or each bite, but I know that I've had Polish near Midway; French by Maude, One Sixtyblue, Bistro Margot, Bistro Campagne, Red Rooster, Bistro 110, Kith and even Kin; Burger at Paramount, the Counter, Kumas, DMK and among Five Guys; Vegan with Karyn both cooked and just raw; all of Rick Bayless; had to "Go 4 Food" in Chinatown; went from farm to table with a Girl and a Goat, at a Gilt Bar, Nightwood and The Publican; watched the chefs at Avec and Davanti Enoteca; learned to fly at Blackbird and Bluebird; picked pasta at Tocco, Coco Pazzo, Spiaggia's, Rasta Pasta, Terragusto, Roseangelis and Francesca's; did prix fixe at Sola and Moto; ate with chopsticks all over town from iNG, Urban Belly, New Tokyo, Sunda, Joy's, Jeannie's, Pingpong, Shanghai Terrace to Le Colonial; loved Lou and Gino and Spacca Napoli pizza; got whimsical with Graham Elliot; pie and home brew at Piece and Nella Pizzeria; fell in love at Great Lakes; noshed on Chicago hot dogs and lobster rolls at Fish Bar; cruised the Mediterranean in Greektown, Casbah Cafe and A La Turka; chicken pot pie where ever I could find it; Hot Chocolate, a Green Zebra, Toast, Orange and a taste at the Kitchen; tried Rockit, Table Fifty-Two, The Drawing Room, Hugo's Frog Bar, Belly Shack, Carnivale and MK; tapas at Cafe Iberico and Cafe Ba Ba Reba; met Fred's at Barneys; south of the border at Big Star, Mi Tierra, Zapatista, Cesars, Cafe El Tapatio, Chilam Balam and even Chipotle, or New Mexican at Abiquiu Cafe; Indian at Marigold, Standard India and Hemas; Fat buns at Ann Sathers; cheese with my wine at Webster's, the D.O.C., The Tasting Room, Bin, Bin 36, Volo, 404, Eno, the Purple Pig and sipped champagne at Pops; BBQ at Chicago q, Smoque and Chicken Hut; bellied up to the bar at Jacks, the Gage, Schubas, Cooper's, Minibar, Mystic Celtic and Wilde; meat at ZED451, veggies at Spring, cold queso at Bandera and brunch at Gemini Bistro; hearty at Hearty and HB; BYOB'd when we could and we can't remember the rest!   
While I dined around for fun, my other objective during this two year quest was to eat right.  And now that I'm trading my residence in the City of Big Shoulders for an apartment in the Big Apple, it's time to give a final answer to the question:  can you eat right around Chicago?

The answer is...yes, but only sort of.  Chicago is packed with marvelous cuisine with amazing chefs cooking up remarkable food.  And I feel strongly that if you're going dine at their establishment and spend the $$$, you should eat what they are best at creating, the way they created it.  So, I'm not ever going to advocate trying to change a chef's recommendation to suit your diet, unless you're at a restaurant where your dinner was cooked, not prepared (you know what I mean) or if you have a dietary restriction.  I know that's hard to hear from a dietitian, but if you want a dish drastically changed, then you may want to make it at home.  Problem is, many chefs are making mouthwatering meals that are delicious, but high calorie and heavy in fat without being nutrient dense or very creative.  To my dismay, sometimes it's like they're not even trying, just tossing in more butter.  But rather than skip the top dishes across the country or request grilled chicken everywhere you go, here is what I - a person that dines out for dinner not just for special, wants to taste the tastiest menu options, is determined to remain a healthy body weight - has to say for you to eat right around:  

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7 Myths About Sustainable Seafood

As the weather warms (maybe), it's time to eat seafood.  So, I thought it was appropriate to talk about the confusing area of sustainable seafood.  Here's the problem...I'm not a seafood expert.  And I don't want you to suspect that anything fishy (sorry) is going on, so I invited a contributor on board (eh) to steer the helm (I'll stop).  There's no better fish expert to consult than the very green, very lean and not-at-all mean, Kate Geagan, MS, RD, America's Green Dietitian.  Welcome, Kate! 

7 Must-Read Myths about Sustainable Seafood

In terms of a powerful lever you can push in our food system to tip it towards "sustainable", you can't get much bigger than fish; it lands right up there with meat at the top of the heap when it comes to eco-impact. Yet it's also one of Earth's healthiest protein sources (packed with a litany of other benefits, ranging from Omega-3s to selenium to vitamin D), so we nutritionists love to put it on the pedestal of ultimate healthy eating.  But how to choose?  I chatted with ocean advocate and visionary seafood chef Barton Seaver, whose new cookbook For Cod and Country dishes up sustainable seafood that somehow manages to be dazzling, delicious, yet totally doable for the home chef (for full interview with Seaver, visit my blog).   With his input, I compiled 7 myths about sustainable seafood with the truth and my tips to help you navigate the waters. 

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Simple Healthy Grocery List with Instructions

Sometimes you need some inspiration or new ideas for dinner.  Today, I felt like I needed a grocery list created by someone else.  The best person for that job?  My sister, Lauren, contributor for Wine and Food Travel

She's the goat-lovin' farm-type, all artisan-focused, organic-minded, creative with the kale, grainy, grow your own veggies, dessert expert extraordinaire (she is the mastermind and cook behind the dessert menu for Central Kitchen in Cambridge, MA), food admirer that knows how to confit stuff and roast a veggie better than anyone I know. 

So, I emailed:  send me a grocery list and tell me what to do with the stuff I buy.  Although she didn't use proper punctuation or capitalize a darn thing, I'm posting her email because you may want to head to your favorite market this afternoon.  
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11 Healthy Lessons from my Dog

I think that my dog has it all figured out.  She's chronically happy, runs effortlessly, is always affectionate, maintains her body weight, sleeps easily and rarely complains.  She's content and healthy.  There are simple lessons from Mokey, the Giant Shnoodle, that we could learn from.  After an in-depth study of the life of Mokey, here are a few pages from her healthy and happy lifestyle book.   

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The Crazy as Charlie Sheen Diet

I'm on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen...If people could just read behind the hieroglyphic... There's a new sheriff in town and he has an army of assassins...Let's talk about something exciting: Me....I'm an F-18 bro.... There's my life. Park your nonsense...Deal with it...Oh, wait, can't process it? LOSERS....My success rate is 100 percent. Do the math...She was attacking me with a small fork...Duh, WINNING.

Charlie Sheen @

I absolutely can't resist cross-posting my dietitian friend's blog post on the meatball that is Sheen (with her permission, of course).  Here's what Julie Upton, MS, RD, CCSD of Appetite for Health had to say about this superstar's wisdom...

Whenever we have a chance to point out the ridiculousness of Hollywood fad diets, we do.  There's enough content to devote an entire blog to Hollywood's worst ways (HCG, Coffee & Cookies) to lose weight...but we have no desire to waste our time on that.

But when Mark Izhak, a personal training and dietitian-in-training in New York City shared his recent blog post, Is Your Diet as Crazy as Charlie Sheen? with us, I couldn't help but share it and put our own twist on it.  It was just too good to pass up.

We know it's an attempt to infuse a little pop culture to our  sometimes dull diet and nutrition advice. If my use of the new urban term "to sheen," "sheen-ing," or "sheened" is wrong, I apologize.

Check out Julie's 4 Telltale Signs That Your Diet is Full of Crazy Not Calories

10 Winter Workout Tips

If you're trying to lose weight, you are faced with an additional hurdle:  the winter weather.  What's a "dieter" to do?!?!  We are amidst a blustering winter day here in Chicago and the thought leaving the apartment, never mind putting on running sneaks, sounds nutty.  Here are my tips on what to do:  

(I first published this in the winter of 2009, but I'm getting requests, so I re-posted it.) 

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What Dietitians Say About Salt

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The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans have everyone scrambling to translate the recommendations into their daily meal planning - from salt to saturated fat.  A recent survey of registered dietitians (RDs) conducted by Pollock Communications, a leader in healthcare, food and nutrition PR, reveals that although over half of RDs rank sodium as negatively as saturated or trans fat, it will be challenging for Americans to adhere to a lower sodium diet.  The new Guidelines recommend a limit of 1,500 mg per day for people over 51 years of age, African Americans, and those with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease - a group that collectively makes up about half of the US population.  For the general public, the recommendations remain at 2,300 mg per day.  Of the over 100 RDs surveyed, about 95% are concerned that eating 1,500 mg of sodium per day is either "unlikely" or "very unlikely" for consumers.  Given that the average intake is about 3,400 mg per day, dietitians are calling for better choices from food companies to help bridge the gap. 

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2010 Dietary Guidelines Release: Do you care?

The release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a hot topic in the world of food and nutrition - the world I live in.  Strangely, it was on my mind so much that I had a dream the other night that I was asked to do a TV segment to discuss ice cream and how it fits with the guidelines.  (Apparently, it does, because in my dream, I scooped perfectly portioned balls of ice cream for the studio audience - weird, I know).  Well, I just finished watching the announcement from the USDA and HHS and I was wondering if anyone else cares about these guidelines.  Did you take the day off to find out what they say and reorganize your kitchen and pantry?  The thing is, I was so looking forward to hearing these experts tell us something useful...something we can easily implement...give us an "ah-ha" moment for a better diet and lifestyle. 
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A Happy Ending in Tokyo, Kyoto and Beijing

Because it was so amazing, I want to finish sharing our adventures in eating on our Tokyo, Kyoto and Beijing trip.  It has a happy ending. 

Note:  not going to learn much about nutrition in this travel blog.  Sorry, I'll be back to chat about nutrition soon! 

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Eat Right Around Went to Tokyo

Konnichiwa!  It's been too long!  I just returned from a long and lovely holiday.  Mitch and I packed five outfits, an iPad and a taste for Asian cuisine and embarked on a 14-day trip through Tokyo, Beijing and Kyoto for Christmas and New Years.  Now that I'm back and getting organized, I thought it would be fun to share some of my shots of Japan and China.  Being that I'm a dietitian, of course, I took pics of many of my meals!  If there is a lesson in the series of posts I'll put together on the trip, it's that traveling the 13 hours required to get there is totally worth it!   

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Tiny Tastes Add Up to BIG Waists for the Holidays!

Do you ever find yourself saying:

- I'll just have a taste.
- Just a small sample.
- Only a bite.
- Just one.
- A small piece, please.
- I can't let it go to waste.
- She worked so hard to make it.
- Only a sip.  
- Someone has to try it.

- It's a holiday! 

I was able to write this list with such authority because - of course I've said these things!  Especially over the holidays!  I'm famous for sticking my fingers in dishes (totally rude, I know), sampling a snack, licking a spoon, cleaning a pan, picking at cheese, dipping chips and having just a taste.  I don't graze...I sample.  So when I read the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County's Food, Nutrition and Health article, PowerPoint and patient handout, "Tiny Tastes Can Total BIG Calories over the Winter Holidays", I was totally offended because I knew they were speaking directly to me.  Once I got over my narcissistic outburst, I realized that I needed to share their keen thinking and skillful calorie calculations on tiny tastes.  Could it be that I (or maybe "we") are maintaining a bit of winter insulation from these tiny tastes?  Given that it takes 3500 calories a week to support (or lose) a pound of fat, what would a day of innocent sampling do to a waistline?  Alice Henneman, MS, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension outlines it in her expose:  Tiny Tastes Can Total BIG Calories over the Winter Holidays.        

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Does your Food Label Lie?

"Does this Label Make my  Butt Look Fat?" asked Julie Upton, MS, RD in her blog on Appetite For Health.  As a registered dietitian she has learned from clients that the food label can be tricky and unclear.  And we know that "tricky and unclear" often leads to over-consumption and subsequently (along with a fair amount of sedentary living), a bigger butt (or belly or face or where ever you tend to gain weight).  In her blog, Julie gave her recs for where to look on the label to get the answers you need:  check the serving size, calories, saturated fat and sodium.  Nice way to simplify your supermarket experience for sure.  It got me thinking about all the other space-takers on the label (ya, I made up that phrase) and wondered if we, the consumer, understand all the chatter on the label.  Given that she wrote the book on labels, literally, I asked Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA,RD,CDN, owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC and author of, Read It Before You Eat It (Plume) to give her insights.  Here's what she had to say...

Food labels are supposed to be like the table of contents of a book - they're designed to tell you what's inside [the package.] Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that...many labels are confusing, and still others are downright deceptive. Words like "light", "low", and "natural" seem to be an instant magnet pulling products from shelf to shopping cart even though the items are not exactly health food material.
So to help prevent you from being fooled by the box, here are some of the most popular 'catchy' foods labels that you don't want to get caught misunderstanding:


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Tired of Turkey?

I had homemade turkey soup for lunch...again.  Since I took the bird out of the oven last week, I've had a turkey sandwich for breakfast, turkey pieces for a snack, microwaved plates of butternut squash and turkey for dinner and picked it apart for soup.  I'm starting to gobble.  If you are tired of turkey as well, here are three non-turkey recipes from your dietitian friends to help you break the turkey rut.  They all have five ingredients (discounting pepper) and are full of nutty nutrition, essential fats and disease-fighting phytonutrients. 
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One Simple Step to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

'Tis the season for worrying about holiday weight gain.  If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the the self-help to-do lists to avoid packing on the L-Bs for the winter, but would rather not get Santa-fat this December, I have come up with a one-step program to help you out.  Actually, one size does not fit all, so I have created ten, one-step programs so you can find the one that works best for you.  

The idea is that you apply this one step EVERY DAY - that's the only way that it will work.  Some of these steps are very difficult and downright mean, but if you are determined to maintain (or even lose weight) over the holidays, one of these tough one-step programs may be your solution.  There is no money back guarantee for this one-step strategy, 'cuz it's free and I made them up (granted, I have some nutrition expertise, but still).  But definitely let me know how it goes!  

Note:  you are welcome to take on more than one of the programs during the next few weeks - there may be a dose response!  

Results may vary (says my fake legal team).  

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Even Better Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

I know that you love shrimp cocktail for the holidays.  You love that it's a rich source of selenium, vitamin D and B12.  You love that it's low calorie and a great source of protein.  You may also like the taste and the horseradish tang of a perfectly home-prepared cocktail sauce.  Whatever the case, Danielle Omar, MS, RD of Food Confidence gave me a recipe to share that makes this already fabulous appetizer even better.  Try it! 

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100 Calorie Dessert in an Instant!

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Did you just realize that you didn't make a dessert?  Need a dish to bring to a potluck?  Can't figure out how to pass off a supermarket pie as your own?  Don't worry, here is a dessert in a flash.  It's easy to make and has only 100 calories per serving.  Perfect for any diet, this luscious mousse has a healthy dose of vitamin A, beta carotene and fiber, yet is low in sugar, fat and calories.  A crunchy gingersnap is a great garnish.  Thank Marlene Koch, RD, author of: Eat What You Love: More than 300 Incredible Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat & Calories.
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Glorify the Green Bean

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Green beans make for an easy-to-prepare, delicious, nutritious side dish.  Have a bunch in the fridge or some in the freezer and want to make them special?  Here are some dietitian-submitted recipes to make green beans shine.  

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Roast or Smash Parsnips

Parsnip.  It sounds odd.  In my head, it is said with an English accent.  Or it's what you say when someone says, "how much?" - "oh, not much, just a parsnip" (with an accent, of course).  This anemic looking carrot is actually a slightly sweet, yummy vegetable.   And they are good for you - good source of vitamin C, folic acid and fiber - no fat, low calorie and all the other veggie attributes we love.  Parsnips make a delicious side dish for the holidays to boot.  Instead of just boiling the crap out of them (like my grandpa does - bless his heart), here are two great dietitian-submitted recipes for your holiday meal (or any time really)! 

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Make Turkey (and your Health) Better with Cranberries

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I use this with my's so tasty!

Mac without cheese, peanut butter without jelly, turkey without cranberries...all just crazy.  Thanksgiving without a cranberry dish would be insane, tradition-breaking and dinner destroying.  I'm being dramatic, but oh how I love cranberries.  The super tart, face-twisting tangy, humble berry is both an American tradition and a health-promoting powerhouse. 

Maybe you didn't know that cranberries have one of the most outstanding antioxidant profiles and contain a phytonutrient unlike its berry mates.  Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins and the cranberry has a type of proanthocyanidin that is unique.  Subsequently, this out-of-ordinary berry has special powers - antiadhesion properties.  This means that it prevents stuff from sticking to cells, like bacteria.  So, in the urinary tract, it helps prevent E. coli from sticking to the urinary tract walls.  The result?  Helps prevent urinary tract infections.  This antiadhesion property may also make the cranberry good for your heart, teeth and reducing the risk of other chronic diseases.  Go cranberry!

Enjoy these cranberry recipes this Thanksgiving sent by more awesome dietitians.  You'll note that many cranberry recipes (or even beverages) have some sort of sweet source with them  - sugar or another juice, for example.  Totally needs it...ever try to eat a raw cranberry?  It's so freakin' tart that it would be difficult to endure.  Even though it has a bit of sugar, the benefits of cranberries are worth it and a little sugar with cranberries shouldn't be a diet disaster unless you're a sugar fiend at every meal!    
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Dietitian Approved Creamy, Mapled or Fried Sweet Potato Sides

Sweet potatoes are a common side dish during the holidays.  So smart.  Sweet potatoes are super duper good for you.  One medium sized (whatever the hell that means) potato has 100 calories, 4 g of fiber, 0.1 g fat, 2.2 g protein and is full of potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin A.  Sounds like a recipe for blood pressure management and chronic disease risk reduction!  Or maybe it just sounds like a tasty, sweet and savory side dish.  To enjoy your health promoting potato this holiday, try one of these "dietitian approved" recipes.  (Recipes are written as submitted by my trusted dietitian friends.)

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Healthy Mashed Potato and Gravy Recipes!?!?

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Who doesn't love mashed potatoes and gravy?  Honestly, I think I could mash any vegetable and add a dribble of gravy and love it.  When I worked in the hospital, I loved all the mashed and mechanically soft kidding.  The problem is, it's difficult to find a great mashed mess that isn't equal parts butter and potato.  But, of course, my trusted dietitian friends have ideas.  Enjoy! 

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Dietitian Approved Easy, Tasty Thanksgiving Recipes

Everyone is looking for simple, fast, delicious recipes for the holidays.  And I'm no different.  I plan to create a huge feast for Mitch, Tom (and dog, Mokey) this Thanksgiving, so I'm collecting ideas.  Of course, I want these recipes to be nutritious - you know, nutrient dense and veggie-heavy - but I also need them to be super easy to make.  I'm not looking for fat-free (never am), but I want lots of phytonutrients, fiber and healthy fats from nuts and oils (not butters and cream).  Given that I know that the most reliable source of nutrition information is the registered dietitian, and that the registered dietitian is also the most responsive, helpful, thoughtful and concerned professional that I know...I sent out an e-blast requesting favorite, easy-to-prepare, healthy holiday recipes that can be created with 5 ingredients or less.  I also asked these amazing givers to throw in a line of nutrition advice.  Needless to say, I have enough content to take us through the new year so this is the first of two recipe blogs that I'll post.  Each recipe is 'as is' - just the way the dietitian submitted it to me (it's my blog, so the rules of consistency are being tossed for this one).  Not all of them are combined with an actual photo of the dish (just an ingredient or example) - but all are nutritious and I would hope, delicious! 

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Got Umami?

Umami.  It's not an illness, a derogatory slur about your mother or an Anime character, although its roots are Japanese.  It means "flavorful" and has become recognized as the fifth taste alongside sweet, salt, sour and bitter.  And if you're going to remember this blog for an anecdote or pick-up line at your next social gathering, it's pronounced, "you-mommy".  

With the new Dietary Guidelines just around the corner, the nation is fixated on salt and sugar.  It's making me think more about taste - since we are so focused on salty and sweet. This fifth sense (not to be confused with The Fifth Element) was discovered in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda when he enjoyed a dish of konbu (kelp) and identified the salt of glutamic acid as the source of its unique taste.   

Got Umami?

Umami denotes the taste of foods that are rich in glutamic acid, inosinate and guanylate.  Simply put, these are naturally occurring substances found in a variety of foods.  Their synergy promotes a meaty, rich and even "tactile" taste that gives food a distinctive "full" mouth feel.  Umami isn't just one taste - several receptors have been identified - and some foods have more glutamate, while others have more inosinate or guanylate.   At this time, scientists can't say what the significance of umami may be on health - researchers are investigating its myriad of receptors and how the mind and mouth respond - and its impact on satiety, taste preferences and obesity is being considered.  Stay tuned! 

In the meantime, here are foods to tempt your umami buds: 

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Is Sea Salt Healthier?

Everyone is talking about salt these days.  It's no surprise since the next round of Dietary Guidelines for Americans are set to be released late this year or early next.  These guidelines will be based on the advisory committee report that was published in July and salt (sodium) has a starring role as a must reduce item in our diet.  Although the committee recognizes our love-of-salty and this will be a tall order for Americans to achieve, they are recommending a reduction in our total salt intake from 2300 mg (from the 2005 guidelines) to 1500 mg per day.  That said, the US consumes about 3500 mg of sodium per day, according to the CDC.  So why the aggressive push to shake the shaker?  Well, a reduction in sodium could save 60,000-120,000 lives from heart disease and 32,000-66,000 from stroke annually.  It's kinda worth it, don't you think? 

While many of us look at our canned goods, processed foods and salty sauces to lower our sodium intake, many (restaurants included) are taking a closer look at their ingredient list and flavor enhancers.  Because of this, I'm getting more questions about the sodium content of sea salt and what I like to call, the fancy salts.  If it's gray or rock or course or from the sea, does that mean less sodium?  Here's your answer...

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Is your snack making you fat?

I've always questioned the notion of grazing, snacking or eating 5-6 small meals a day.  It seems like a recipe for diet disaster to me...eating every 2 hours, dreading the idea of getting hungry and proactively munching on something to avoid overindulging.  Not only do I find snacks unnecessary (unless I'm training everyday), I don't trust myself to modify my calories at a subsequent meal.  For example, if I enjoy an afternoon snack that has 250 calories, realistically, I know that I won't modify my dinner to compensate for these additional calories. 

I also wonder how many snacks are prompted by hunger and how many are grabbed due to boredom.  Ever notice that around 3pm you experience a lull or mental fatigue?  If I asked you at that moment, "want to get up and grab a snack?"  It's likely that you'd appreciate the relief.  Is that really hunger though?  Are we really short on nutrients 2-3 hours after lunch?  What if I said, "let's blow this pop stand and go shopping."  First you'd mock me for saying "pop stand", but then you'd probably agree, even if it doesn't fill your belly. 

I'm pretty sure that we've been tricked into snacking. 

Snack Attacked.   

What really concerns me and prompted this post was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "How Lunchtime is Turning into Snack Time".  

First, apparently, we are frequent snackers.  The piece noted that 56% of Americans eat a snack.  With 25% of the US reporting NO PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, I'm thinking that most of these folks aren't snacking because they are training for a big race. 

The second concern is the fast food trend discussed in the WSJ article.  You've seen the food establishments are shrinking their supersized meals ever so slightly and calling them snacks.  Eeek!  So I was concerned about a 250 calorie snack and now we're grabbing a 410 calorie snack wrap?!?!

Its time to stand up against outrageous, gut busting snack attacks!  Consider thinking twice on a few of these typical snacks, while trying some others...  

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A Post about Toast

My g-friend and co-author, Julie Upton, MS, RD and her bud, Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, have this blog called, Eat Like an RD.  Yes, it's all sprouts and whole grains and the new junk food craze, baby carrots.  No, not really.  It's great ideas from dietitians and insights from the pair on anything from lunch to calcium to Julie's run in the Rockies.  I was reading it today and decided to borrow a post to post. 

There's so much diet hullaballoo (I'm not complaining), that I was struck by this very easy, quite useful and super tasty toast post - A Toast to Toast.  Oh so simple and recipes you can use - like now - not after you write down a complicated list and drive to the market.  Sure, you could have figured these out on your own, but sometimes we need a reminder to help get out of a food rut or in this case, a toast rut.  Here are pics of their quick ideas and check out their post about toast for how to make these treats.

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Find Lots of Nutrients On the Side

Ever look at the main course options on a menu and cringe at how massive they sound?  Think to yourself, "is this for the week, or just this meal?"  I do.  In fact, I frequently find the side dishes more appealing and less overwhelming.  After all, instead of a side of a cow or a pork's butt, I'd rather have a side of vegetable fabulousness; I want a nutrient-rich mouthful, not a fried, fattening gut full.  In a recent visit to the amazingly awesome Gilt Bar on 230 W Kinzie St, I did just that - ordered it all on the side.  It proved that I could eat right (with a few watch outs), enjoy an assortment of tastes and pack in a variety of nutrients.    

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Eating During Ironman: 14 Hours of PowerBars, Cookies and Chicken Broth

You can't imagine how good it feels to be re-entering the world post-Ironman.  I am going to resume my life of eating for pleasure (not just fuel), exercising for fun (without worry and obligation) and living as an easy going Chicagoan who loves to eat right around this grand city.  If you have been following my sporadic posts between swim, bike, run, eat, sleep, repeat, then you know that I have spent my summer training for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.  I exhale with relief every time I say that now.  My summer was hijacked by tireless hours swimming, biking and running.  Although Ironman is a gift, it's also an obligation that, for about 4 months, removes you from normal activities of daily living.  Alas, it is done...and I am a (two-time) Ironman finisher.

When you make the ambitious and loony decision to register for this 140.6 mile race, you may not realize that you are also committing to denying yourself commonplace activities like brunch on the weekends (you will be biking or running), late night of cocktails (bed by 9 PM), shopping for something other than gear, wearing your hair down (I can't believe how long my hair is now) or even keeping up with stuff that "make you look good".  I put makeup on for the first time in months this past weekend and even had my brows threaded (like plucking or waxing).  Although I have ridiculous tan lines on my arms and legs and my face looks like a handbag, my blisters and chafe marks have healed and I'm officially starting to look like a girl again.   

Before I close the chapter completely, I thought I'd share with you what I ate during Ironman (mostly because that seems to be the most commonly asked question).  So, check out my photo gallery of the event and here is a laundry list of what I ate for my 14+ hour day (water, ad libitum, all day).

Overall times: 
14:56:08 overall
1:25 Swim (2.4 miles)
7:18 Bike (112 miles)
5:45 Run (26.2 miles) - also known as "walk/jog"

- 4AM Breakfast:  Whole grain bagel with walnut cream cheese, banana and coffee
- 1 Hour Prior to Swim Start:  PowerBar gel
- Swim to Bike Transition:  PB&J on wheat
- Bike:  2 bags PowerBar Gel Blasts, 1 PowerBar, 1 oz. Fritos, 1/2 PB&J, 1 package Ritz Cheese & Crackers, 1 PowerBar Gel
- Bike to Run Transition:  1/2 PB&J, 1 oz. Fritos
- Run:  (this is where it gets weird because my stomach is starting to reject everything) 1 PowerBar Gel (with caffeine), ~8 oz. flat Cola, ~8 oz. chicken broth, 1 package Ritz Cheese & Crackers, 8-9 sugar cookies (yes, for about 8-9 miles, I had a cookie at every station), 2 orange slices

Immediately after the race:  2 slices of pizza

1- hour after race:  a few bites of French Onion Soup and a beer

Enjoy my pics!

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Eat Carbs, Last Longer: Carb Loading

Ugh, I am less than 5 days from Ironman Wisconsin.  I've tapered (decreased my exercise) and now I'm battling mental anguish and nervousness.  I am packing my tri bag, checking my list of nutritional needs and stressing about forgetting something crucial.  I call this the worrying week:  have I trained enough?  What if it's windy and I'm blown to a halt on the bike?  Oh, God, I have to swim 2.4 miles with 2000 flailing arms.  What if my neck aches?  Will I get a blister?  What if my belly rejects food?  Aaaaah!  What have I done???

OK, enough of my pre-race pity party, I will give you some information that you can use...worrying week is also for catching up on sleep, resting and topping off fuel stores.  Although I don't count carbs (or anything really), I recognize that it's important to mind my nutrition this week.  For me, it means eating every 3-4 hours, avoiding fatty foods, sticking to easy-to-digest items and emphasizing carbs, e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains and pastas.  (I also try to avoid hitting the bottle...but that's Sports Nutrition 101, so probably something you already figured out.)

Why Carbs?

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for most types of exercise - even the long endurance events.  Don't kid yourself - if you are doing an Ironman or exercising over 2 hours - you will use fat as fuel, but no one bonks because they ran out of fat.  Buuutttt, you will hit the wall if your carbs are depleted.  And it won't be pretty.  Even 60-90 minutes of endurance training or a few hours in the weight room can seriously deplete carbohydrate muscle fuel stores.

Bottom line:  if your diet is too low in carbs, your performance will suffer and so will you.

Still not convinced?  Consider this:  you're sitting at your desk all day and you skip lunch.  Find yourself getting cranky?  Have you snapped at a co-worker?  Feeling tired?  Maybe a little blurry?  Well, your blood glucose is declining and your body is not OK with this...neither is your brain.  So you start to decline in function.  Now imagine if you're on a bicycle or running.  Yup, you may fall off your bike or crumble during a run.  Friends don't let friends run out of carbs - so make sure you start your race fully fueled.

I think of "carb-loading" as carb-emphasis.  And, it isn't something that you wait until the last minute to do.  It starts days out from the big day, not the night before.  The point of carb-loading?  Well, research shows that if you maximize your stored glycogen (carbs in your body), you will help to ward off fatigue and optimize performance.  It's like starting a road trip with a full tank of gas (which you may not do if you live in Chicago because gas prices decline as you leave the city...but that's a different issue).

No need to empty to fill.
  The concept of carb-loading has come a long way.  One old-school view was that you needed to empty your tank, so to speak, and spend a few days focusing on high fat and protein foods with little to no carbs.  It's now known that you don't have to do this.  No need to starve and replenish.  This "super-compensation" exercise was deemed unnecessary, difficult and likely to contribute to stomach upset.

If you're exercising at a steady pace and intensity, carb-loading can increase your endurance by about 20%.  I'll take that. 

Your Carb-Loading Plan (if you like numbers)

3-4 Days Before the Race:  3.6 - 5.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of body weight

1-2 Days Before the Race:  4.5 - 5.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of body weight

So, wish me luck.  That's all I have at this point.  I have to trust my training, hope that I can stay strong enough to keep my posture, persevere when it hurts like a mo-fo and avoid signing up for Ironman again. 

If you're bored on Sunday and want to see if I am able to finish my 2nd Ironman race in under 17 hours (my first IM was completed in 14:27, but I'm not feeling as fit and agile as I was in 2007), you can track athletes online (last name Bell, first Jenna).  Click here:  Athlete Tracker.  You just won't be able to find out if I'm crying or swearing or dragging myself across the finish line.  I'll blog about that after the race if my ego isn't too bruised.

Oh and if you're attending or doing the race, I'll be doing a book signing at the PowerBar booth at 10:30am on Friday at the expo.  See you there!!! 

And hope for a windless day of pain-free fun!  
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Elegant Grill Recipes for Meat Lovers from Le Cordon Bleu

Since I went to an event at Le Cordon Bleu last year, they've been kind enough to get in touch with recipes or ideas that I can share with readers.  So, for this Labor Day, I have some elegant grill recipes for you meat eaters (we'll talk more about that next week) created and tasted by the esteemed chefs at Le Cordon Bleu.

To make your guests think that you're a grill expert and culinary genius, click below for any of the following recipes (seen in the photo gallery). 


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How Salty is Your Daily Diet?

Everyone is talking about reducing the salt in our diet and the foods we eat and I don't mind it one bit.  I've always been frustrated by its pervasiveness and irritated when the Chef can't find that delicate balance between bland and "you've got to be kidding me".  It's a flavor enhancer when just barely there and a blood pressure-raising, tongue-stinging disaster when over used.

While I may view it as an occasional nuisance, salt, or more specifically sodium, has become a serious dietary issue threatening the nation's health.  The recent report from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee said that, in short, Americans need to eat less salt (so far, they're saying that the new recommendation should be closer to 1500 mg per day).  Coupled with our desperately low intake of potassium from fruits and vegetables, our country's high salt diet puts us at a greater risk for high blood pressure, stroke and other chronic diseases.

I was thinking...we all know that the foods that are the highest in sodium tend to be those that fall into the canned, processed, ready-made, snack, cured and fast food category...but do we really know how much sodium we are currently consuming from our mainstays, our daily preferences, the frequently consumed food in our fridge and pantry?  Just how salty is your fridge, freezer and cupboard now?  How salty is mine???

So, here's your homework:  perform a pantry raid - find the foods you eat daily, check their labels or look them up on the USDA nutrition analysis site and compare them to the potential 1500 mg per day that the new Dietary Guidelines (due out in late 2010) might recommend as a daily limit.   

I'll start with mine.  Let's see how this supposed "low sodium eater" does on a daily basis with the daily basics - there may be salty surprises!




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Foolproof, Farm-Fresh Dinner Party: Some Assembly Required

I love dinner parties.  I even love hosting them.  That said, I dread all the blood, sweat and tears that can accompany a labor intensive meal prepared for friends.  To avoid jumping into the shower when you hear the door buzzer, a dinner party is best prepared in advance and with tasty, nutritious foods that require just a bit of attention, rather than hours of poking and prodding.  As the summer winds down, my sister Lauren has created and tasted a menu that is perfect for those of you like me - happy host, crabby cook - and prefer it when only some assembly is required.  She'll walk you through her prep, but remember, you don't have to grow your dinner in an urban garden like she does, you can simply visit your local market. 

Hello all, Lauren here again, writing about my food and farming to round out Jenna's Eat Right Around blog.  This past weekend, Courtney (our other sister) had a dinner party, for which I did most of the prep and left it for her to put together with just a few instructions. 

First, getting the food:  Courtney wanted a cheese and charcuterie plate, fresh salads, roasted mushrooms and fresh pasta, so you need to go somewhere that has fresh herbs, vegetables, cheese and possibly homemade pasta.  May take one or two stops.  This is where we went... 

We made our way to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge to rally ingredients and pull something together to tempt and impress.  For the cheeses we got Oma, made by two good looking brothers in Vermont, a raspberry and juniper leaves-wrapped fresh goat, and an aged sheep's milk cheese.  We bought Fra Mani salami (Paul Bertolli's charcuterie out of Berkeley, CA) and a Parma Prosciutto.  I also picked up a lovely, local beurre doux.  Yum.  (Note from Jenna:  that's butter - I looked it up.)  

After seeing the offerings at Formaggio, at the market we bought Hen of the Woods mushrooms, shallots, Kentucky beans (green beans), large gumball size carrots (they are a French variety whose name escapes me), a beautiful and colorful medley of tiny potatoes, pea shoot tendrils (young leaves and shoots), poblano peppers and fennel, all from local farms. 

We then stopped by my garden at an elementary school in Boston's South End to pick herbs and radishes.  (I cannot tell you how exciting it is to finally have my own space to grow food!)  I have been living in areas for such a long time without garden space, and while that is still the case, this school plot is among the biggest gifts I've ever received.  All the herbs are sweeter and more lovely since I grew them.  I swear it's true.   From here, I picked parsley, chives, radishes, curly cress, bronze fennel, basil, and leaves from a plant that taste like garlic but isn't.  I have no idea what the plant really is, but is has to be edible because I am not dead yet.  (Note from Jenna:  that is not how we tell if a plant is OK to eat!)

Here's the menu (with just a few tips on how to assemble):

Baguette toasts with roasted Hen of the Woods mushrooms with shallots, herbs, olive oil and salt and pepper:  roast mushrooms with shallots and chopped parsley, chives, bathed in olive oil and salt and pepper on 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until tender.  Toast the baguette with OO and S&P.

Steamed Kentucky beans and round carrots with a shallot and herb butter (mix your herbs with the butter).

Potato salad with chives, scallions (from our mother's garden), and creme fraiche herb dressing.  Radishes and curly cress on top.

Pea shoot tendril salad with shaved fennel and scooped avocado, honey and Dijon mustard herb vinaigrette: salad dressing - 1 T Dijon mustard, same of honey, 2 T champagne vinegar, 3 T OO, s&p, chopped scallions, chives, garlic leafy plant.

Fresh Ravioli (find a great fresh pasta shop - that's what we did) with homemade fresh tomato sauce and roasted eggplant, also from mom's garden:  roasted eggplant sliced 3/4" thick, s&p, 350 degrees until crisped-edged.

Roasted poblano peppers on goat cheese toasts. 

Seriously, I didn't really cook anything - the whole meal was assembled, really.   Enjoy! 

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Longaberger Bike, Credit Fraud, Hollywood Run and the Best Pizza in Chicago

To continue to answer the question, where have I been?  I thought I'd compile the rest of the details into one blog post.  It's been an exciting couple of weeks!  And I use the word exciting to mean new, unexpected, not boring...but not necessarily good.  Other than training for Ironman (one month left), this should get us up to speed. 

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Eat, Pie, Love

I spent the last few days biking RAGBRAI (more to come on that in a future post).  Because I knew I'd be off the grid for a few days, I asked my sister, Lauren, if she'd share some of her food love for my blog.  Here is what she had to say (and don't overlook the great pie pics below):

Hello there, this is my inaugural debut as a web writer/food blogger, nice to be here, thanks for having me. When Jenna asked me to write for her this week while she rides her bike half-way across Iowa (yes, the state), I initially thought, well, crap, I don't know anything about fitness. Being her sister of sloth-like movements and habitual sedentary living, not one to ever finish an Ironman competition, let alone a high school track practice, I wasn't sure I could hold the attention of her online demographic. But then I remembered that I have a lot more in common with most of you than she does. I'm normal. You may relate to what I have to say.

So, without stalling any further, I bring you my post; my statement and declaration that you will all understand.  No, I won't talk about nutrition in the same way my sister does, and fitness will not be mentioned here in any intentional way, but hopefully you will be able to follow my meandering thoughts as I navigate this crazy world of blogging in the public domain. Because, for real, I'm about to come clean on something.

I love pie. I want you to love it too. It's beautiful, crumbly, sweet, reminiscent of windowsills wafting scents of baking fruit to passers by, it is emblematic of what is good in the world (yes, I know what a big statement that was). To me, and clearly I'm a romantic and crazy person, I think that pie makes life better. I make them to feed my family and friends, and I don't just want to feed them, because macaroni and cheese and chocolate can do that, I want to satiate their urges and make them identify new taste buds. I want them to pause with it in their mouths, to smile as the crust crumbles and sweetness (maybe a bit of savory in there? is that fleur de sel?) comes through, I want them to taste the warm, farm-fresh fruit as if it were still on the vine. I even picture hand stitched aprons and table cloths, antique pie servers and plates, flowers growing and milk being delivered in glass. A warm breeze.

I'm not kidding. I am not 80 years old, I swear, but about this I feel most passionately that some things are sacred. Pie is one of them. I do not have religion in my life, but I do have pie. And I'm wholly dedicated to it; a devout pie worshipper. 

My obsession began within just the last two years, and I've tried every pie crust recipe online. For the most part, I make up what I want to go inside. I make tarts and galettes too, tiny pies and big, hand held pies and little scrappy doughy bits cooked and kept for dipping in jam. The variations possible are limitless, and for Jenna's sake I'll mention that there's only 2 sticks of butter in my favorite recipe for crust and most of the time, I only use half the recipe. So otherwise, all you're eating is fruit, or sweet potatoes and caramelized onions, or chicken pot pie, or curried vegetables, or dried tomatoes and fresh herbs, or...(I'll stop, but you get the point- this can be healthy). And if you're a purist like me, you harvested these fruits and vegetables yourself, maybe you have the garden or farm that supplied most of it, and maybe, in your wildest and most hopeful moments, you hope to one day have the cow to make your own milk, the chickens for the meat, and the bees for the honey. If you make your pies truly from scratch, you'll have a more active lifestyle than most.
To my new friends, I'll show you my pictures and share a recipe. Obviously, I won't tell you all my secrets, because why then would you make the pilgrimage to the pie shop I'll open one day? It'll be called "Pie Shop." (purposeful period) or something equally clever.
My pie crust:
2 sticks real butter (salted for savory pies, unsalted for sweet)
2 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (you can totally use pastry or whole wheat too- try it, play around!)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
Enough ice cold water or milk to form a dough ball

Cut the butter into small cubes and stick in the freezer for a bit. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (or directly in your Cuisinart). When butter is super cold (that's an exact temperature, duh), mix with dry ingredients. Julia Child says you should do this with your fingers so that you know what the dough should feel like. I agree, and now that I know what it should feel like, I use the Cuisinart. The outcome of this step is for all your butter to be mixed in with the flour and such, and broken down into what should remind you of  crumbly oats, little granular balls.

You want the butter well mixed. This is most easily achieved by hand by smashing the butter against the side of the bowl with your thumb, then incorporating the flour mixture. However, your hot little hands will warm the butter quickly, so work fast. In a mixer, this step happens in about five pulses. When sufficiently granular, add the cold liquid until it becomes a ball capable of being manipulated.

Take it out of the bowl, flour up your surface, work the dough quickly and just enough to form a ball. Split dough in half (this is enough dough for a top and bottom layer or two bottoms). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-24 hours.

Roll out the dough, fit to your pie pan (leave enough to crimp to make a crust), fill and bake. I'm purposefully hazy on these last few directions because it's always different. I never really pay attention to the temperature I cook at (probably always within 350-450 degrees f), I rarely pay attention to the amount of time I cook something, and depending on the pie, I may precook my crust or use an egg wash to create a seal between bottom crust and filling...again, the variations are limitless. I will say this though, don't be afraid to mess it up, it'll still taste good. Your pie is always done cooking when the crust is tanned. Easy enough there, right?
If I haven't lost you completely by telling you how to do that, please see these pictures for inspiration!

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Busy Life? Fuel Properly!

CeCe's Kitchen invited me to chat about fueling well for a busy lifestyle and answer questions that her listeners and family have.  Such fun!  CeCe is super duper, so check it out!

Click HERE:  CeCe's Kitchen

We talked about protein, meal planning, belly fat, nutrition for women, sports nutrition, organic foods and more! 

The Real Benefits of Exercise

Yesterday I was thinking about my blog, and all of you, while lathering a menthol muscle rub - wistfully missing my frequent dining out, tired of referring to food as "fuel".  I'm 7 weeks from Ironman Wisconsin and training has hijacked my life.  I could nap at the drop of a swim cap, eat my body weight in carbs and I feel like a crackhead getting a fix when the physical therapist pokes around my muscles.  I think my hair has gotten a few inches longer, but it's hard to tell since it's always wet and tied back.  Despite the clear zinc I bathe in, I have a freckle line across my jaw, permanent tan lines at the point of my bike/run shorts, a raspberry where my wetsuit zips up and the tips of my piggies are mad at me for letting my sneaks get wet during last week's Half Ironman. 

Despite these inconveniences, I know that my training has benefits.  For one, I go to the physical therapist because I have epicondylitis (tennis elbow) from typing on my computer and it seems that it only feels good when I'm exercising.  And, there's all that research.  Long term and clinical studies confirm that chronic exercise improves our blood pressure, reduces the risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer, promotes weight loss, increases strength and endurance, improves mood, blah, blah, I could go on and on.  Yet, our country is in crisis - obesity rates are through the roof and heart disease is squelching lives - and physical fitness remains desperately low.  Everyone is talking about the health benefits of exercise, but it doesn't seem to move the needle.  So, I'd like to take a crack at it.  From an exerciser's perspective, here is a smattering of what I see as the real benefits of exercise.  Maybe one will speak to you and help you find your inner athlete!

Here are the real benefits of exercise:  

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11 Healthy Cooking Mistakes by Healthy Eats

My colleague, Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, blogger for Healthy Eats on the Food Network website, recently asked a bunch of us dietitians for our insights on healthy cooking mistakes.  She came up with list of mistakes and fixes from nutrition professionals - some a bit unexpected.  Dietitians are lovin' some perfectly portioned full-fat options, farm-fresh foods, believe in spicing things up and recognize the importance of taste and flavor.  Check out the nutritious insights on Healthy Eats Ask the Expert:  11 Healthy Cooking Mistakes

Dana's blog has the full list, which you must read because they include the sensible and simple solutions from the experts.  Here are a few of the mistakes to spark your interest...

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Vegan Lunch with Vital Juice

Yes, that's right, I had a vegan lunch with Vital Juice.  You know that I love veggies, but I think you may have picked up on my fondness of all things dairy and noticed that I include meats and seafood in my weekly fare (not daily, but weekly for sure).  Just to make sure we are on the same page, vegan means sans animal for wining, dining and living.  For those that proclaim vegetarianism as you enjoy a piece of salmon, this is not the case for vegans - vegans opt out of wearing or eating anything that contains any trace of animal.  It is also the premise and practice of successful Chicago restaurateur, Karyn Calabrese of Karyn's Raw, Karyn's Cooked and the location of my vegan lunch - the most recent addition and style-y - Karyn's on Green

I left the confines of my home office and put on a dress for this lovely lunch outing because I was invited, along with other Chicago bloggers, writers, dietitians and fitness folks and ChicagoNow's Mark Beier from Chicago Fit Club, to the Chicago launch of Vital Juice.  You don't drink this juice, you read it.  It's a website and daily email that gives you the lowdown on new and healthy eateries, workout hot-spots, spas and wellness events in Chicago.  Partnered with Karyn's creative cuisine, it was a healthy and tasty mid-day break.  Check it out...

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14 Easy Ways to Get Out There and Enjoy Summer!

Summer is great.  I have been riding my bike like it's my part-time job, running along the lakefront and swimming in the glorious waters of Lake Michigan.  Even if you're not training for an Ironman, summer offers an array of activities that are easy, enjoyable and sometimes cheap or healthy.  Here are 14 simple summer activities: 

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Get a Clue About Calories

USA Today reported that Americans do not know how many calories they need per day in an article titled, Many Americans Clueless of How Many Calories They Do or Should Eat.  While I find the findings of the study interesting, I thought that if I didn't know how many calories I needed, I'd want to know now!  And not just the average range based on my age and gender.  So, yay!  I have a blog and I can answer this question for you and provide you some options. 

Note:  I'm not saying that you should count calories, but when faced with a food label, it is nice to have a point of reference.    
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Dinner in Naples...Chicago, That Is

I dream of sitting in a piazza, sipping Prosecco, eating a fresh Neapolitan-style pizza with a fork and knife (yes, my dream includes an uncut pizza that I eat from the center out with a fork and knife).  I'm remarkably comfortable in the heat of the late day sun and I don't have a care in the world.  The summer breeze makes me feel fine.  If I'm dining like this, in a piazza, then I must be on holiday (sounds more luxurious than vacation).  A girl can dream and a Chicagoan can easily find a bit of this Italian bliss in their backyard.  One of my many favorite Chicago locales for a summer's afternoon pizza and Prosecco is Spacca Napoli Pizzeria on Sunnyside and Ravenswood.  Chicago Magazine agrees as Spacca Napoli is 15 on the July 2010 Best 25 Top Pies in Town.  Following an 11 mile run on Saturday, we took our weary wings to this authentic, friendly Ravenswood neighborhood gem.  We capped the day with my favorite gelato from Paciugo Gelato in Lakeview.  Benissimo!  

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Dietitian Brain Dump: This Week's Nutrition Notes

With all this work and training, I'm feeling a bit flustered, disorganized, sall we shay - random - in my nutrition thoughts.  Rather than trying to force one specific topic, I think it's better that I just provide you with a brain dump - a dietitian brain dump - to end the week.  Like throwing spaghetti at the wall, maybe something will stick.  

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The Diet Dichotomy

While studying breakfast sandwich choices at Starbucks this past weekend, I figured out our nation's diet dilemma.  Yes, that's right, at Starbucks, I figured it out.  I know why we are having so much trouble maintaining healthy body weights and choosing a nutritious diet.  I knew it wasn't a knowledge issue - goodness gracious - there is nutrition information everywhere!  And it can't be that we are too busy or just gluttonous.  Nope, it's much simpler.  Staring at my options for a savory, not sweet, breakfast to-go after my biking weekend in Madison, it hit me!  We have created a diet dichotomy!  
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Farm-Fresh by the Sea

It may be my New England roots, but whatever the case, I believe that lobster is an integral part of summer.  Throw in an ocean view and I can almost tolerate sun and heat (almost).  Because I live in the lovely lakeside city, Chicago, each year, I head home to the east coast for my seaside fix.  This year, my summer lovin' had me a blast at a new place:  The Market Restaurant on Lobster Cove in Gloucester, MA (and check out this link to their blog for gorgeous pics and detailed bios).  Recently opened by Nico Monday and Amelia O'Reilly from the brilliant and organic-acclaimed, Alice Waters', Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, this adorable duo brought their friends and family (and my sister) to the east coast to create amazing meals with local produce and sensational seafood.  Oh my, lobster and farm-fresh by the sea - can you stand it?!?!   

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Dietitian Using Social Media


Pic that I needed to use for something

I've been traveling since last Friday and haven't had a minute to share...but will...tomorrow.  In the meantime, I will be on Comet Radio 72 tomorrow, talking about how I use social media (or maybe how it uses me, ha!).  Listen live! 

Click here to tune in:  Comet Radio Branding
Or try here:  Comet Branding Blog
When:  11AM CST on Wednesday, June 23, 2010. 

First Lady Obama's Chefs Move to Schools

I may be a little late to this party, but my favorite friend, nutrition expert and colleague, Kyle Shadix, MS, RD, Certified Chef de Cuisine just sent me some fabulous photos from his June 4th visit to the vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House.  Kyle is part of the remarkable group of 500 chefs invited to launch the First Lady's Chefs Move to Schools - part of her Let's Move campaign to help significantly reduce childhood obesity by 2030. 

First Lady Obama has called on chefs to help educate school children about food and nutrition.  According to Obama, "children consume as many as half of their daily calories at school, and with more than 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever."   She is looking to chefs to help deliver the good nutrition message in a fun and delicious way. 

They are looking for more chefs to get with the program, so if you are a chef and haven't already, join the movement

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Ladies, Exercise Making You Eat More?

I am so hungry all of the time.  I believe it's my training, but it could be my genes.  My Dad once said that he thinks about food all day.  He added that he goes to work and exercises just to fill the time between meals.  I'm sitting here contemplating a blog, taking care of business and I have Regina's Pizza on my mind.  Yup, Regina' Boston...I live in Chicago.  I was going to write a simple blog, tell you about Regina's and make you suffer with me at the site of the brickoven love, but then the dorky dietitian in me took over.  I started to contemplate how my hormones may be affected by my increase in physical activity.  Then I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to chat a bit about how exercise affects energy balance? And is there a difference between men and women?  Is there a scientific explanation for my incessant starvation?  If you are wondering the same, read on.  If you're not, then just drool over the pictures of pizza.  

Eating Because of Exercise

I found this really great scientific review about physical activity, hormones and energy balance on Medscape that addresses this frustrating issue.  It's a long-winded read, but here is what I took away from it: 

- There are male-female differences in the response to exercise.

- Men say they want to eat less in response to exercise, women don't say this.  I find this is true in my practice with athletes.  One professional triathlete said, "I'm always hungry when training...even if I'm gaining weight."

- Women may eat more to compensate for increases in activity.

- Women actually experience changes in their hormonal regulation of energy balance when they exercise.  Their hormones may drive them to eat more.  It's likely to protect reproduction. (Blah, blah, I'm too hungry to feel pleased about that.)   

- Men don't experience the same dramatic changes in the hormonal regulation of energy balance when they exercise. 

- Women regulate their energy balance better so that they eat more when they exercise and subsequently, do not lose weight or body fat.  (Unless they don't eat to compensate for the increase in exercise.  Basically, if they ignore their drive to eat more.)  

- Men do not compensate for the increase in activity, so they lose weight and body fat from exercise. 

- Men are jerks. 

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Swim, Bike, Run, Eat...Take 1

June 12th marked the first race of the year for me - Elkhart Lake Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I'm only doing three triathlons this season, but I will be progressing from a manageable Olympic distance to a not-so-bad Ironman 70.3 in Racine to the "why am I doing this again?" Ironman Wisconsin on Sept 12th.  To share my nutrition tips and race testimonials, please enjoy my photo gallery!

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Have a Summer Salad

Salads don't have to be boring and drab.  In fact, they can make a tasty, nutritious meal, especially during the warm summer months.  I think you should trust me on this because if you've been following my dietary habits, I'm not a salad pusher.  I need a colorful, exciting salad made with a ton of veggies and interesting flavors, not just a pile of iceberg lettuce, chicken pieces and cucumber slices, to call it a meal.  In fact, I think that it can be a disappointing diet disaster when its bland in color, smothered in cheese, bacon, croutons and bad tasting dressing.  Fortunately, there is a way to do salad well with a variety of fresh veggies, unexpected flavors, bright tastes and herb-rich, spicy vegetable oil based dressings (not a creamy mess of saturated fat).  I recently enjoyed a salad at John's Place in their comfy, neighborhood, outdoor space.  Check it out and maybe you'll get an idea to spice up your own salad at home or at your next dining stop!  

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Eat Right During a Workout

Madison ride.jpg

Dave from VQ tells us the plan

I spent my Wednesday bathed in sunblock, pockets full of fuel and with bottles of warm water riding 80 miles of the Ironman Wisconsin race course with a group from Vision Quest in Chicago.  It was a beautiful day, especially if you were having a picnic or taking a midday walk.  But if you were on a bicycle, it was gusty and relentless (for the 2nd 40 mile loop).  Like your annual pap (sorry, guys), it was humiliating and even a little small talk couldn't make it more pleasant. While I can't control the weather on a long ride, I can control my nutrition.  I'll stop griping about a day of biking and use this as a clumsy segue into eating during exercise - did I mention that my bike shorts ripped and I'm pretty sure that I have a diaper rash? 
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Chicago's Farm-Fresh Nightwood Restaurant

Last night, we headed to the Lower West Side of Chicago, called Pilsen, for a farm-to-table, mind-blowing dinner at Nightwood Restaurant. I had very high nutrition hopes and great food expectations.  So many restaurants leave me feeling lovelorn; I desperately wanted Nightwood (with its dance club sounding name) to be the one.  Like I was considering a prospective mate, they had everything I was looking for.  A menu that is updated daily, based on season and availability, makes the knees of my bees weak.  When they boast simplicity, I imagine varied and colorful, hand-cut veggies, fresh herbs and robust, unpretentious flavors so that you make that m-m-m-m-m-m face with each bite.  I fantasize about a nutrient dense, farm-fresh meal with the perfect wine pairing and all the vegetables I can eat...finished with a delicious dessert that can't be skipped.  After this birthday dinner for Mitch, I have very little to say about Nightwood Restaurant except:  I think I'm in love.  

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10 Things You Should Know about Omega 3s

I am frequently asked nutrition and health questions about omega 3.  Stuff like:  What is it?  Where do I find it?  Why is it good for me?  What if I don't want to have fish?  Given that my clients' FAQs are usually similar to everyone's FAQs, I thought it would be helpful to develop a top 10 things you should know about omega 3s.  I hope this will answer some of your questions about the big Os.  

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Staying Hydrated During Exercise

It's getting hot.  If you're like me, that means you're getting thirstier when you exercise.  And if you're just like me, you find it difficult to maintain proper hydration and balance your fuel and sodium needs during long workouts.  We're not's a frequently asked question among athletes of all levels that I train or work with at Swim, Bike, Run, Eat!  When asked about staying hydrated during exercise, this is where we start...

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Tips for a Fat Summer Vacation

Summer is nearing and it's time for a vacation.  Maybe you're planning to explore Croatia, spend time in Italy, or maybe you've decided on a sunny, beach-y destination.  If it's a relaxing beach side getaway that you've picked, you may feel like you're done dieting for your swimsuit and healthy eating is on the bottom of your list.  Given all the nutritional dedication you've had this past winter, you may be asking yourself, what can I do to ensure that I get fat during my vacation?  How can I avoid losing weight or getting fit?  Could I gain a pound or two even if I'm only traveling for a week???  Ask no more, I have your answers.  These evidence-based tips are based on my week in Aruba.  I arrived on Saturday and although I'm here for work (conducting sports nutrition workshops for Aruba's Olympic team's coaches and athletes - for real), I have had time to collect data and develop these top tips to either get fat, or stay fat, on your summer vacation.  

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Guilty Food Pleasures

Sure, all foods can fit in your diet.  You're right, you shouldn't feel emotional guilt about what you put in your mouth.  Feel guilty if you purposely run over your neighbor's cat, but don't waste those feelings on food and nutrition.  We should eat until we are satiated...balance our calories with our activity...consume a variety of foods...all in moderation.  That said, sometimes we must stray.  We must go wild.  We adore some foods that provide us very little nutritional value, are dense in calories and fat (rather than vitamins and minerals), are just too salty and fried, or even processed in a way that make us question whether they deserve to be called "real food".  Sometimes we're embarrassed about our adoration because of the food's lack of sophistication or culinary prowess.  Whatever the case, we know that we shouldn't have these foods everyday because they are just not that good for us.

Recently, I was enjoying one of my favorite not-so-foodie and not-so-healthy food favors and it got me thinking - maybe that's part of the problem - Americans have forgotten to save these "occasional" foods for a rare occasion.  We don't "go wild".  We just eat our splurges daily, rather than rarely, and not only have they lost their allure, they are contributing to our national nutritional breakdown.  When I was growing up we put a can of soda in the fridge every Friday morning so that it would be cold for Friday night.  It was special.  It was a treat.  If you celebrated your birthday everyday, what would be your "special day"?  We need to push the reset button and put these foods back into their "occasional" category and make them special again. 

To help me convey this point, I asked a boatload of dietitians to tell me their favorite "cheat" food.  What do they just love, even though they know it's not the most nutritious choice, creative creation and that may be a little embarrassing, but they cherish it here and there because it's their splurge.  Take a gander at these nutrition experts' responses and use them to remind yourself of two things:  1.  it's A-OK to have a food that you covet for reasons other than nourishment, even dietitians do it, and 2. if you're eating these foods daily, you may be missing out on something special - you've forgotten to save some foods as treats - if they are part of your daily intake, what's the allure?  Push the reset button, don't let these foods be commonplace and habitual, make them special again.  Here's what's eaten when dietitian go wild: 

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Will Future Foods Make you Fat at Moto?

If you haven't seen Future Foods on Planet Green, with Moto's chefs, Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche, it's time to tune-in.  If you haven't eaten the food that gave them the cred and recognition to take their molecular gastronomy to the little screen, then it's time to dine-out!

Moto is heralded for its crazy creativity, innovative food creations, gastronomic whimsy and of course, fantabulous taste. Talk to anyone that's dined at this West Fulton locale and they're likely to report that they enjoyed bite after bite, of course after course, of unexpected, inventive tastes.  Moto serves a prix fixe menu of 10 or 20 items with optional wine (and sometimes beer) pairings.  With this many courses to consume, can you eat right at Moto?  Or will this future food make you fat?  I can't possibly do justice to each course - describing each bite in the detail it deserves - but I can tell you whether each dish serves up a diet disaster.    

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Salt is Killing Us

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally announced this week that sixteen food companies have agreed to reduce salt in everything from ketchup to rice as part of a national effort to cut America's sodium consumption by 20%, according to the Associated Press.  According to the Washington Post, some restaurant chains are jumping on board as well.  At this point, the plan is that the salt edits will take place over the next several years. It's about time.  But will it nix our need for a salt-fix?

The food industry is responding to the pressure (no pun intended) from health organizations and now governmental officials, but interestingly and unlike other health trends, this push isn't coming from the consumer, it's coming from the folks that are concerned with heart health stats and health care costs. Consumers actually tend not to buy foods labeled, "low sodium"; these items are not flying off the shelves.  And Americans eat over 2X the recommended levels of sodium (2400 mg per day is recommended).  The US likes it salty despite the evidence that high salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure, or that one out of three adults has been diagnosed with high blood pressure.  We eat processed foods and shake the shaker despite the evidence that high blood pressure is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease - the country's number one killer.

Here's the issue that I see, the change needs to start with our taste buds.  Our love affair with over-salting our foods must stop.  Personally, I can't take it any more.  Salt is killing us literally and for me, it's killing my buds.  In fact, my tongue hurts today because of last night's meal. I'm uncomfortably parched and my buds feel abused and I've had it...enough with the salt. 


I started this blog today in light of the dinner I had last night.  Honestly, I hesitate to write this because this establishment is fabulous and I will return because I know they can do better, but given the status of my hydration and my pummeled taste buds, I'm going for it. 

Mitch (salt-lovin' Mitch) and I were excited to find out that despite it's club-like, martini-serving exterior, DMK Burger Bar is a hip (using the word, "hip" means I'm not, I realize this), contemporary, forward-thinking, swanky burger joint. I was in love, love, love as soon as I walked in and read the "grass-fed beef" sign, creative beer list, fried okra and pickle starter, deviled eggs and the proclamation that they have the best veggie burger around.  The menu is fun and inspired with a sensational fry selection, a few salads, dreamy sounding mac & cheese or grilled cheese plates, and beef, turkey and veggie burger options at rock-bottom prices.  With a White Allagash in hand, I was gleeful. 

She's Come Undone...

While Mitch and my table mates, Thomas and Philip, seemed unaffected, happy to have a burger in hand, I had a meltdown.  Without warning, my meal began to spiral out of control. 

My "best veggie burger ever" was deep fried like a hash-brown and as a sank my teeth into the perfect bun topped affectionately with a slice of eggplant, my tongue writhed in pain from a salty sensation that made my eyes cross.  I took a sip of my beer.  Mild relief. 

I breathed deeply and the inner dialogue began.

Don't panic, it's grainy and good even though it's fried, look at the eggplant, eggplants are good.  Oh God, are they?  Oh God, no, they soak up all the fat they can!  My hash-brown is wearing a sponge! I'm soaking up the oils with my eggplant sponge and I'm eating it!!!

Relax, this place is so close to your apt.  The staff has been so warm and friendly, the server's sweater is super cute, you can do this.  Try a fry, yes, try a fry, ooh, the one with the Parmesan and truffle, m,m,m,m,m, aaaaaah!  My tongue!  It's a salt lick with truffle!  Dip it in the creamy dressing for relief, oh no, the fat-filled, chunky dressing! 

Stop it.  It's a burger bar, I love burgers, and there are so many places in town that serve up great burgers and this one needs to be one of them. 

Lemme try a taste of your burger, Mitch, m,m,m,m,m, by God, it's the salt again!  I could hear my tongue scream in shock and plead with me to stop this torture. 

So I did. 

I stopped eating.  I sat there disappointed wondering how I was going to re-balance my fluids over the next 24 hours, indulging in short bursts of nutrition rants for my dinner mates' pleasure.


"It's a burger joint", they would say, in defense of the heavy-handed, salt shaker in the kitchen. As though burgers were meant to be cured on their way out to the table.  As though we should accept over-indulging in salt, without any regard for taste, because it's a burger.  An all-American beef burger doesn't mean that health is out the window!  I don't accept that!   

"No!  It's not acceptable!" I exclaimed a little more frantically than the situation called for. "They didn't mean to do it!"  I don't think they intended their grass-fed beef to be bathed in sea salt.  They didn't mean to send their fries out in a blizzard of sodium!  This was a mistake. Someone poked too many holes in the salt shaker, they accidentally doubled-up on doses, or at the very least, the esteemed chef forgot to taste the food. Whatever the case, no one meant for the food to be this salty. 

Or did they?  Everyone around me looked quite pleased.  The burgers and the toppings were lovely after all.  The ingredients fresh, cooked right and served beautifully.  Could it be that the amount of salt was OK with everyone but me?  How will we ever lower our sodium intake if we can handle this much salt in one meal??? 

It Starts with Taste Buds

So, I sit, recovering, reflecting on my salty night out, tongue still sensitive, fingers a bit swollen, with a glass full of water, writing about salt in the American diet. I'm glad to hear that the food industry is doing something about the sodium content of frequently-purchased foods and that chains of restaurants are modifying their saltiness.  But as I learned from Marshall Shafkowitz of Le Cordon Bleu, and put in a previous post, eating right out is a personal choice and Chefs have to understand their patrons' preferences.  In that case, I guess that means that if they want to pay for salty, you give them salty. 

Salt Solution

The food industry is making small modifications that may have a big impact on a nationwide level; 20% sounds quite dramatic for the general population of the US.  We'll still be above the recommended limits if we're consuming double, but I hesitate to complain because I think it's going to be challenging for people to manage their salt-tooth.  I didn't see anyone else freaking out over a salty burger last night.  In fact, everyone seemed finger-licking pleased. 

I guess we'll have to wait to see if these salt reductions affect our taste buds, lower our blood pressure and maybe even create a consumer that wants to pay for less salty, so gets less salty.       
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Diet & Exercise News You Can Use

On a daily basis, I receive streaming updates from a variety of online news sources showcasing the latest and greatest diet and fitness headlines from across the country.  Some of them highlight new trends, others alert readers to recent research findings, while many are authored by dietitians giving sound nutrition advice.  Despite the plethora of diet and fitness tips and quips, discussions and reports, they don't appear to be moving the needle towards better health in our nation. 

Have we become desensitized to the healthy headlines?  I'm concerned that hard-earned research results and healthy recommendations have become background noise...elevator music...rather than useful information that we can use to change and improve our own lives and lifestyle.  I'm worried that we are doing more reading than changing, and dismissing important guidance with the day's clutter. To help you sift through the news, I've pulled out several articles from big and small places, and broken them down into easy-to-digest soundbites that may act as a stimulus for diet and lifestyle changes.  Who knows, maybe they'll help us move the needle. (The links to the complete stories are below.) 

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10 Reasons to Eat Your Easter Chocolate

Easter is on Sunday and if you're like me, you feel that you are never too old for an Easter basket.  Although some restraint is required, I prefer my bunnies and eggs made of chocolate.  If you agree, then let's make the science work for us with: 10 Reasons to Eat your (Dark) Chocolate Easter Bunny!  

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12 Traits of an Eat Right Wine & Cheese

Tomatoes and pasta, pizza and beer, tomato soup and grilled cheese, tofu and vegetables, cereal and milk, almonds and dates, chicken and pot pie, wine and cheese - all simple, culinary partnerships that I adore.  With the latter in mind and an aim to eat right, I enjoyed an evening out at the Tasting Room in Chicago's West Loop.  There are many wine bars speckled around Chicago and I have a special fondness for a few of them, including the Tasting Room (as well as Eno at the InterContinental on N Michigan Ave).  Believe it or not, I do believe that you can eat right around wine and cheese.  On the heels of my Tasting Room taste, I thought I'd share what I look for in a delicious, somewhat nutritious wine and cheese experience.  

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NJ Woman Wants to Weigh 1,000lb - Your Thoughts?

Most people I talk to aspire to lose a few pounds, get fitter and improve their overall health and well-being.  So I just about fell off my chair when I saw the story, "New Jersey Woman Wants to Weigh 1,000 Pounds"!  

Apparently, this 42 year old mother of two is diligently eating (and sitting) to increase from 602 lb to a substantial 1,000 lb!  The Fox News article reviews all the issues with this belly-stretching feat - from the impact on her health to the taxpayers' plight. 

I've been reading the listserv conversations back-and-forth between Registered Dietitians but I'd like to know what you think: 

What are your thoughts on her biggest-gainer mission? 

Further, does this reflect a more serious issue with food and nutrition in this country? 

Solo on the Road - Dine and Do

As I gazed adoringly at one of the most delicious plates of Fettucine Verde Bolognese that I've ever spun around my fork at La Vela Ristorante in Manhattan, a question my sister posed occurred to me.  She asked me if I go out alone when I travel for work.  I said, oh yes.  I'd never waste my trip, money or calories on room service - and speaking of which - we all know that a club sandwich is the only good room service item anyway.  It also occurred to me that I try to make the most of any work trip if I can find the time and the location is right.  Fortunately, I often have conferences or meetings that allow for a few hours here and there, and put me in desirable locations.  So, for those of you (and there are many, many of you) that find yourself solo on the road, I have some thoughts on traveling alone.  Not really advice, because I can't claim to be an expert traveler (yet), but just some anecdotes from an average traveler.  
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Beard Papa's Perfect Puff

For several years now, work has taken me to NYC, so whenever I went east, I would squeeze in a cream puff run to a Japanese bakery chain called, Beard Papa's.  As luck would have it, in late 2009, Papa brought their love to Chicago's loop on the pedway level of Block 37, Suite 50 on 108 N. State.

It may seem like bearded papas have little to do with the most decadent, delicious, puffy, creamy, delightful handfuls of the tastes dreams are made of, but, whatever the name, Beard Papa's cream puffs are amazing.  (According to Metromix, it is named after the owner's grandfather's beard.) 

I love Beard Papa's puffs for the pleasure it provides, but as a dietitian, I am very fond of its modest calorie contribution.  If you choose the traditional cream puff, it will cost you a mere 220 calories, 13 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar.  While a chocolate dipped is offered, the bare naked cream puff is perfect, just the way it is. 

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Why is it so Hard to Lose Weight? Podcast!

Many people are trying so hard to eat right, lose weight and create a healthier lifestyle. Consumers and experts will say that we are challenged by confusing food labels, contradictory advice and misleading nutrition tales.  We seem to understand what we need to do - so why is it so hard?  Why is it so difficult to eat a balanced diet and maintain a normal body weight?  Listen to my 1st podcast on

Eat Right Around Podcast on my website

Eat Right Around Podcast on iTunes

Why I'm Scared of Prix Fixe

I love everything about dining out. 

I love being escorted to my table, assessing the area like I'm buying a house - looking for quiet neighbors, great view, comfortable weather. 

Yes, I'd love water - tap please. 

I love cloth napkins. 

I love opening the menu for the first time, evaluating it for the tastes I crave, knowing that I can choose anything I want. 

I love contemplating the wine and when the server has a suggestion and describes it with descriptors that are meaningful, not just "fruity" or "dry". 

I love the anticipation - will the server be personable, will we love the specials, will I remember my meal, will we comment on the way out, "that was the best meal we've had in a longtime". 

I love that you have to look right at your dinner mate when you talk and because of this intimacy, you learn so much about each other and solve so many of the world's problems (but only if the food is good). 

I love that the size of the table matters to me and that I like to look out the window, rather than into the restaurant. 

I love it when the server truly loves food and respects time rather than being too rushed or moving too slowly.  I love it when they tell you that you should try this, or that they don't think that is all that - and you can tell that they mean it. And I love it when they're right and you share a look that says, "wow, that was a little bit of heaven in my mouth". 

I love it when the food makes me proclaim, "holy shit, you have to taste this," or "this is just stupid," or "I think the Chef loves me," or "AMAZING!" or when I can't say anything at all because I'm weeping. 

I love dining out for these reasons, and so many more. 

Therefore, it is with a heavy heart and abashment that I confess:  I am scared of Chicago's restaurant week and I'm scared of prix fixe menus.    
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Foods for Good Sex - Live on Daily Buzz

To celebrate Valentine's Day, I was on the Daily Buzz Morning Show. The "holiday" has passed, but I have a feeling that interest in foods that are good for sex has not - at least I hope not (he he).


Daily Buzz Morning Show - Today, I'm on it!

I'll be on the Daily Buzz Morning Show today to talk about how to get Hot and Healthy for Valentine's Day!  Check listings to watch it in your area!  

Things That Make You Want to Do-It

It's Valentine's Day and for those that think this is a real holiday, you may be planning a night out with your mate, partner, spouse, luvva or someone you'd like to do it with (have dinner, that is).  While peacocking may be your attention-grabbing tactic of choice, there are other things that may get you (and your partner) in the mood.  Here is a list of foods that are not your typical "aphrodisiacs" (I left out oysters) but have been considered for their sexual prowess.  Word of caution - unlike most of the nutrition tips I provide - the science is a bit "loose" when it comes to foods that turn you on [insert bad joke here] - and I've focused on foods you eat, rather than the science behind sexy scents.  Lastly, I've included a couple of things that may help you want to "do-it" over the long term and their supporting science is more robust. 

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Healthy Super Bowl...Really?!?

The "Wing Bowl" Buffalo Wing Eating Contest Is Held In Philadelphia
As with many annual events or holidays, Super Bowl parties have become a gathering for us to fill our faces with high fat, high sugar, unhealthy foods.  Because of this, it creates an opportunity for nutrition experts to give helpful hints and share tricks of the trade to lower the fat, sugar and calories in your favorite recipes.  Between the bombardment of recipes, tips and ideas for party planning, I have become concerned about this odd behavior that we repeat year after year.  So, rather than provide you more ideas for creating the best, healthiest Super Bowl party ever, I have some issues for reflection.     

In the words of Seth Meyers from SNL's news, "Really?!?!"  We can't figure out how to not overindulge on Super Bowl Sunday?  While I appreciate that it's an opportunity to teach people how to make healthier choices year-round, I'm concerned that we can't figure it out. Here are my questions for consideration. 

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Chocolate Prix Fixe at Sola

Without much planning, we headed to Sola Restaurant on Monday night (I didn't even shower) and had the most amazing meal we have had in a long time.  It was so wonderful...we filmed it. 

Note:  First video experience and so excited to add a new element to the Eat Right Around blog!


Veggie Blues

I frequently order meatless meals at restaurants.  It makes me very happy when a chef does veggies right - full of flavor, cooked with care and creatively combined.  Because of this, I know it's possible to serve a gorgeous, fulfilling, memorable vegetarian meal.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that some of the loveliest meals I've eaten have been rich in vegetables and poor on meat.  Given my adoration for vegetables, I was eager to dine at one of Chicago's few vegetarian and typically venerated restaurants.  I was so looking forward to it!  I had heard so many good things about this local establishment that I was salivating at the mere thought of the farm-fresh, seasonal, expertly-crafted vegetarian fare.  Who would do vegetarian better than an acclaimed vegetarian restaurant, right?  Who would be more creative, seasonal, sustainable, diverse, cutting-edge and skilled at preparing delicacies with vegetables???  I'll tell you who...chefs at other restaurants.   

My experience at this vegetarian restaurant was just OK.  It was not the amazing, veggie-tale experience that I dreamed of as a dietitian.  Maybe my hopes were too high...I wanted a place that would turn any meat-eater on...make Mitch fall in-love...exude creativity and culinary amazement.  It just didn't.  Here are my comments:   

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11 Nutrition Tips for Sickies


Oh my aching head.

It's been a slow blog week for me because I was stricken with what appeared to be the common cold on Sunday, but progressively, and I'd argue aggressively, became acute sinusitis.  There is nothing cute about acute sinusitis - it feels like I've been beaten about the face and neck with my nostrils plugged and my ears full of pool water.  It's commonplace, but un-fun, nonetheless.  So, with a hot pack on my face, I thought that it would be helpful to write about nutrition when you're one of the millions with a cold or flu.  I'm not going to talk about prevention - this is what to do when you're in the thick of it - so it's going to be a bit subjective, but from a dietitian perspective.    

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Park Free, Be Green & Eat Right

Everyone loves free parking...and everyone should visit their local farmers' market!  Chicago's only year-round farmers' market, Green City Market, is a one-stop-shop.  It has all the food you need to eat right around (at home) for the week.  I love my dinners out, but prefer my breakfast and lunch at home, so a visit to the farmers' market is a must.  Here's some of what Green City Market offers... 

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Eat Right at a Colombian Steakhouse?

Perfect for a group or party, the Colombian-style steakhouse is a fun and spirited option for a night out with a bunch of people.  I visited one of the Chicago options called, Las Tablas Colombian Steakhouse this past week (not on my Meatless Monday, of course).  If your group of friends decides to take up one of their large tables, will you be able to eat right?  
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My Favorite Diet & Nutrition Books

I am frequently asked, "what's your favorite diet and nutrition book?".  And I have an answer, but I have more than one, and the list continues to change.  There have several released in the past year that I think are top-notch and worth your Amazon bucks. 

When considering my favorite diet and nutrition books, there are a few things I consider first:

  1. Before I thumb through the pages, I check the author's credentials.  A diet book should be written by a nutrition expert - a registered dietitian - just like if you were having a plumbing issue, you wouldn't call an electrician and you don't let your dog groomer highlight your hair. 
  2. I also want it to be an easy, but enjoyable read.  I'm not looking for a textbook, rather a fun, well-written book that gives consumers new ideas and tools they can use. 
  3. That brings me to the last important point - it must provide recommendations that make sense and are easy to achieve.  I want tips, solutions and meal-making ideas - something you can take straight to the grocery store and get results! 

So here is a brief list of my current favorite diet and nutrition books.  I've included some for everyone:  overall health, healthy planet/healthy body, men seeking flat bellies, restaurant enthusiasts, weight loss and sports nutrition!

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Dine out on Meatless Monday!

Did you know that removing meat from your diet just ONCE PER WEEK can help reduce your risk of chronic disease - you know, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer?  And, it reduces your impact on the environment by reducing your "carbon footprint" by saving water and fossil fuel.  I've decided to join the brigade led by the non-profit initiative, Meatless Monday, in coordination with Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health and encourage you to join me! 

To get your Meatless Monday started, here are some ideas for dinner tonight! 

Please note, I haven't made my way to Karyn's yet (the vegetarian hot spot in Chicago) but stay tuned...

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Eat Right at a Sports Bar: Rocks Bar Lakeview

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Bummed by menu at a bar (not Rocks)

Here's the scenario:  your friends call to see if you want to go watch the a sports bar.  You fidget, your palms start to sweat, you crinkle your face in despair - you want to go, but can't stomach the thought of hot wings and ribs, greasy napkins sticking to your stained fingertips, loosening your belt for relief and filling your gut with all that is melted and fried.  If you skip it, you miss out on a night with good friends and there's nothing on TV now that So You Think You Can Dance is over (and Jacob didn't win).  The horror if you go and try to eat right:  the "healthy", wilted iceberg lettuce salad, non-fat, taste-free, Italian dressing, mocking your every bite, oozing with melancholy and restriction.  Aaah, what's a sports fan to do???   Get a hold of can do it.
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Eat Right Restaurant Rating

It's a new year and after eating around Chicago restaurants in the past four months with the intention to tell you all about it, it has become apparent that I need a rating system.  Why, you ask?  Because I have eaten at so many restaurants in this dense Chicagoland of food that leave me satiated, even satisfied, but nutritionally uninspired.  I'd like to share the experience, but need to qualify my recommendations - without telling you to avoid a tasty, but nutritionally-challenged locale.  Rather I'd like to give you a heads up that some establishments may not fit if you'd like lots of "eat right", but delicious options.  
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New Year's Diet Advice for Impatient List-Lovers

'Tis the season for tips, tools and hints to lose weight, get fit and start the new year right. Although I'm inspired by the New Year, New You sentiment, I feel like we may be better off with a to-do list...a checklist of quick-n-easy changes that we can make, starting today, while we're still motivated, that make sense, give results and have the potential to last for the next decade.  This New Year, New You diet/weight loss/healthier/prettier/better/cooler task list, not textbook, is straight-forward, easy-to-implement and will give you the satisfaction of being able to cross items off the list and stick to for many new years to come. 

*This list is designed for the task-oriented, impatient, list-loving, spell-it-out-for-me, candidate for a "diet for dummies", tell me what to do, I'm tired, I have enough on my plate, make it easy for G's sake, attention-to-diet-deficit-disorder reader.  Enjoy!

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Top 10 Ways to Get Fat for Christmas

'Tis the season for holiday cheer and gatherings around the fireplace, hors d'oeuvres, feasts, pies and bar.  Many of you may be looking for ways to eat right and maintain your weight this holiday.  You will find that you have many choices. You'll be faced with figurative forks in the road, with a fork in your hand. 

How can someone get fat for ask?  Quite easily according to Kyle Shadix, MS, RD, CCC, registered dietitian and certified chef.  "A holiday meal can easily exceed 3,500 calories," claims Shadix, "if you do the math, an additional 3,500 calories a day for even 3 days could lead to an excess of 5,700 calories if you only need about 1,600 per day."  And there you have it, it could lead to a weight gain about 2 lbs - and this may be a modest estimate.

So with a bit of sarcasm and holiday cheer, here are your top 10 ways to get fat for Christmas!

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10 At-Home Tips for Losers

The Christmas Weight Loss Challenge is underway, so after a successful week of nonrestrictive, realistic, healthy modifications that resulted in a couple pound weight loss, here are my tips for the week.  These are things to keep in mind at-home when you are battling the bulge.  

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Christmas Weight Loss Challenge

It's been a week since we initiated the Christmas weight loss challenge and so here is a progress update.  I'm going to continue to post tips and ideas for you all to consider during the challenge. 

Thus far, your tools include: 

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Eat Right with ChicagoNow Radio - Listen Here!

In case you missed it, you can listen to the podcast of ChicagoNow Radio, WGN 720

I had a great time chatting it up with host Bill Leff and the fabulous blogger, Patricia Diesen of Chicago Eats Allergy-Free

Get Fat for Christmas on ChicagoNow Radio!

Tune in! 

I will be joining Bill Leff on ChicagoNow Radio WGN 720 Saturday morning at 10 AM - live in the studio at the Tribune Towers to talk about the top 10 ways to get fat for Christmas. And, more importantly, how to avoid it!   

Should you Check your Body Fat?

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The weight loss challenge has produced some questions and I think that this one deserves an entire post.  One of the readers asked about having their body fat assessed to track progress during weight loss.  Here's my response that you may find helpful as well!  

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Chicago Burger - The Counter for the Calorie Counter

I took out-of-town visitors (my parents) to Lincoln Park's The Counter this past weekend.  People have been buzzing about their burgers (along with other Chicago burger joints) so I thought I'd give it a try even though famed burger spots are often greasy and cheesy with a side of fried belly fat.  Oh joy, oh yum, The Counter offers more than just diet destroying fat calories!  

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Do your Leftovers have too much Fat?

Do your leftovers have too much fat? 

Ask these questions:  

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5 Steps to Get Started on your Holiday Weight Loss

I sent out a call to action...a challenge for the holidays:  maintain or lose weight while still enjoying the holiday cheer.  Today is day 1, so I am going to start with a few pointers to help you get started.  
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Invitation to My Christmas Challenge

You are invited to join my Christmas Challenge.  Your reasons for taking on this challenge may differ from mine, but whatever the situation, here's the challenge:  eat right over the holidays and either maintain or lose weight.  What?!?!  Have I lost my mind, you ask?  No, I haven't. 

Here's the Deal:  I am registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.  I did not race (at all) this past season therefore stayed at my pre-season, sedentary weight earned after the 2008 triathlon season.  As it stands now I'm carrying a bag of 10 lb apples that I usually don't bring along on a swim, bike or run.  Therefore, I need to get back to my performance weight - a healthy weight with a lower percentage of body fat.  My pre-season starts now - yes, timed perfectly with the holidays.  My season training begins March 1st and sports dietitians agree, you do not try to cut calories when you're ramped up in training mode - you need the fuel - so now is my time to lose the apples. (If Ironman is in your future, check out: for your training and nutrition needs.) 

The Challenge:  It's the holiday season and there will be parties, cocktails, dinners, get-togethers and food-galore.  I am going to attend, and enjoy, each and every invite (especially since I usually complain that I never have a Christmas party invite) and this year, my calendar is already starting to fill up!  (Luxury problem.)  The challenge is, I need to shed this small dog (get it? 10 lb dog).  Therefore, if you are interested, I encourage you to join me - join the challenge to maintain or drop the dog during this food-focused season. 

Your Invitation:  I invite you to follow me, but really, I invite you to join me.  Leave your comments, track your progress and answer your questions. Let's not do this alone.  I am sure that your questions and comments will help others and I would like to help you as well!  Free registered dietitian (click the link for my creds) at your service...and for me, a host of readers to help me stay on track and focused.  

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Rick Bayless Spices Up Chicago with Xoco!

Chicago's River North just got a little spicier, thanks to Rick Bayless, famed and acclaimed Iron Chef owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Frontera Fresco and five fabulous cookbooks.  I've dined at Frontera Grill (although I haven't told you about it, so I must return) but was looking forward to Xoco with a wee-bit of trepidation.  Yes, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to eat right at this quick-service, "hot-from-the-fryer" el restaurante.  Not to worry, Eat Right Around lectores, Rick Bayless did not disappoint my drive for good health.  

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Veggie Pusher in Lakeview Italian Restaurant

I recently experienced a restaurant first - the server in a small, Lakeview Italian restaurant called Angelina Ristorante pushed vegetables on me!  I nearly fell off my chair and I may have teared up a bit.  You know I love a nutrient-rich meal and the best way to do that is to eat veggies galore. 

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Chicago Restaurant M-m-m-m-m Otom!

Amidst the warehouses of Chicago's West Loop sit some spectacular dining spots.  On Fulton Market you will find Moto and its more casual sibling, Otom (see, it's spelled backwards?).  While Moto is now on my "must-eat" list, Otom has a big check mark...been there, loved it, ate right.

Otom has an understated but elegant interior, and the staff is warm and friendly.  I think it's so wonderful when restaurants have a knowledgeable and approachable staff.  I think that being able to describe the menu and comment on specific dishes is a real value-add.  And a kind, approachable demeanor makes the meal.  (Note to restaurant managers/Chefs:  please let your staff try the food they are serving; we need their advice.)  Sorry for the tangent, it's been on my mind.  Thankfully, at Otom, the server smiled easily, knew what he was talking about and didn't look sideways when I asked for some details.  Off to a great start!   


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Easy, Eat Right, Thanksgiving Menu

Although we plan to have Thanksgiving again this Thursday, we had a practice holiday this past weekend in Oakland, CA with my younger sister and her bo, Levi.  I highly recommend finding a sibling who loves farming and has an academic focus on the sustainability of food systems, and a partner that is a well-trained chef and area manager for a San Francisco bread company and string of yummy cafes.  Just in case you can't find this farmer and chef to cook a Thanksgiving feast for you, here's the menu and some insights if you'd like to adopt their ideas to eat right this holiday! 

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Prep for a Healthy T-Day

Thanksgiving requires a fair amount of planning.  Each year, it's like Top Chef restaurant wars for millions of households across the country.  To help you with your annual opening day, I wanted to hear from the experts that work with people at their point of purchase - the supermarket.  How can we plan for a healthy holiday feast?  Here's what they had to say... 

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Thanksgiving Top 10-ish Eat Right Tips

It's almost Thanksgiving, so to ease your diet stress, here are the top 10 tips from the top nutrition experts - registered dietitians - to help you have a happy, but healthy holiday! 

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Eat Right, Turkey...Dietitians say what?

Thanksgiving is around the corner and "how-to have a healthy holiday" stories are everywhere.  Newspapers, magazines and TV programs ask their best foodie or nutrition expert to offer suggestions for healthy holiday planning, eating and meal making. The popularity of the healthier holiday chat never declines.  And I suppose that makes sense - We all want to eat our faces off this turkey day - but we don't want to spend the new year wearing drawstring pants and weighing our food.  We want to be thankful, enjoy company, dine well and eat right.  

So, in order to make your healthier holiday reading easier, I'm going to create your one-stop-blog for the "top healthy eating for the holiday" nutrition advice.  For the next few posts, I'm going to tap the experts around the country, in all areas of nutrition - registered dietitians from hospitals, best-selling authors, sports dietitians, supermarket nutrition and wellness directors and everyone in between - to give you their best recs on how to stay healthy this holiday season.  

Here's some advice to get your ready for the holidays. 
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The Chocolate Milk Debate

I'm sure you've seen the chocolate milk debate in the papers or even on Good Morning America on Nov 16th - should chocolate milk be offered in school?  Although arguments about milk or school beverages in general are not new stories, the debate has been reignited by the Raise your Hand for Chocolate Milk campaign joining celebs and dietitians in support of chocolate milk.  This polarizing discussion seems to have one side raising their hand, the other raising a figurative finger.  
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LuxeHome Chill Benefit


Mercat a la Planxa

As you may have read, I attended the LuxeHome Chill Wine & Culinary Event last night.  Amidst the world's largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation, we wandered from suite to suite, dined, wined and tasted sweet and savory dishes from over 30 top Chicago Chefs paired with wines from all over.  The event and silent auction was held in cooperation with Wine Spectator and sponsored by the Tribune Media Group to benefit the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.  
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Light Lunch or Gut Bomb?

I live across from a Chipotle (don't we all?) and up until the other day, haven't tried it.  I typically avoid fast food restaurants or chains, but with so many patrons, so many positive stories about their food and farming practices, and so many questions about how to eat right there, I decided it was time I join the millions and eat Chipotle.  
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Chicago Restaurants - Everyone Loves Bacon


Cured meat with friends.

I've noticed that so many Chicago restaurants, from fine dining to diner or deli love bacon and all members of the pig family.  With pork belly making so many menus, I started to read-around.  I discovered an article in the Chicago Tribune's food section:  Bacon reaches new heights of popularity from October 28, 2009. So I knew that I must talk about this pig craze.   

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Omega 3 for Dinner, Mood and Heart

Omega 3 has made headlines and scientific studies for several years due to it's potential benefits for heart health and more recently, our mood and mental function.  Although I include salmon on my list of "don't like the taste of", I decided to give it a whirl at the Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm owned restaurant, Perennial.  
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Chicago Restaurant - Sunda New Asian

Sunda New Asian of Chicago, a Rockit Ranch creation has received a fair amount of attention since it opened, so it's been on my list of "must eat" for some time.  I heard that Executive Chef, Rodelio Aglibot serves up a cornucopia of Asian cuisines, so I was looking forward to my visit, but as always, I wasn't 100% sure that I could eat right at this contemporary hotspot.  
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Chicago Brunch: Not-So-Scary!

Scared you can't eat right at a weekend brunch?  Don't be...pull up a chair at Orange. I did this past weekend, with Chicago marathon finisher, elite runner and registered dietitian of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat!, Pamela Nisevich.   
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Chicago Restaurant - Boystown Neighborhood Bistro

In the eclectic Chicago district affectionately called Boystown, sits Executive Chef Joncarl Lachman's brick-walled, bustling bistro, Home Bistro.  This BYOB (no cork charge) is known for its home cooking, comfortable but urban atmosphere and yummy, generously portioned dishes - but I wasn't sure if this bistro would be all buttery and bacon, or if I would be able to eat right.  
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Chicago Food Favs - Diet Delicacy or Diet Derailer?

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I've been talking to some people about what to do when you'd like to try a Chicago food fav, but know that it's not the most nutritious choice.  How do you eat right when you just want a taste of Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, Renaldi's, Piece, Kuma's Corner, Hot Doug's, Sweet Mandy B's or even Five Guys?  
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