Eat Right Around Chicago

Nutrition Archives

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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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...

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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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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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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 commercials...fast 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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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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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):

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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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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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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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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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Dietitian Using Social Media

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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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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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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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