Healthy eating Archives
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!
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...
Gallery sneak peek (14 images):View the gallery...
Gallery sneak peek (13 images):View the gallery...
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!
Gallery sneak peek (28 images):View the gallery...
Gallery sneak peek (26 images):View the gallery...
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:
Gallery sneak peek (37 images):View the gallery...
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.
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.
When you're dining at Topolobampo and you choose the tasting menu, you may be challenged to Eat Right with Ease if you lick your plates. If you taste, rather than clean, then Rick offers a variety of foods that will provide you a nutrient-rich dining experience. If you choose to skip the tasting menu, then you can Eat Right with Ease at Topolobampo because there are many non-fried, vegetable rich, mild and spicy options for you to enjoy a la carte!
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.)
Gallery sneak peek (6 images):View the gallery...
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.
I've decided that Chicago's Restaurant Week isn't a fair way to determine if a restaurant provides eat right options. I've also decided that it is a good way to enjoy an expensive meal at a discounted rate, but it might not highlight the most amazing culinary creations on the menu.
Cafe Spiaggia earns an Eat Right Rating of Eat Right with Options. Although the prix fixe items were right off their usual menu, I think I'd have to choose my own meal to know for sure.
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.
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).
I recently purchased a video camera, so will be adding some fun food footage here and there. And, just for more fun, here is the creation of our makeshift green screen (no nutrition tips included).
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.
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!
Ingredients (mix and match as you see fit, this is just what I did):
- Sweet Potato
- Acorn Squash
- Chicken or Vegetable Bouillon
- Fat Free Milk (optional)
- Fresh Thyme
- Curry Spice
Directions and the nutrients you'll get: