Eat Right Around Chicago

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 Reasons to Go OM

I have sporadically done Baptiste Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga over the years.  Both of these types of yoga (sometimes called Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga) are considered a type of "flow" yoga.  They are physically demanding, push strength and balance, and make you sweat like cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.  Although I struggle through each class, I need it and I keep going back.  There were many reasons why I started back to yoga at Om on the Range in Chicago.  If you're like me (rather clean out your closet than leave the house on a cold day to exercise) my 10 reasons for yoga may help you see the need to go OM.   

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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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Walk, Run or Trot this Thanksgiving Weekend!

I plan to eat my face off on Turkey day.  Yes, you read that right.  I've been having dreams about mashed potatoes, butternut squash and gravy.  So I'm going to cook up a feast 70's style - nothing gourmet - shoepeg corn in butter sauce, frozen peas, cranberry relish, white rolls, chocolate pie (pudding and ready-made crust like my 90 year old Memere would make it) and a turkey the size of an overweight cat.  The only "fancy" will be the cheese we bought at Binny's (which I highly recommend you check out their cheese and meat selection).  Have I lost my mind?  No.  I'm going trot!  To help offset the good eats, I am doing a Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot and on Black Friday, I'm going to participate in the inaugural ChicagoNow Black Friday 5K and Food Drive!

You should do it too!!!
The details:  Black Friday 5K
Date of the Event:  Friday November 26, 2010
Cost:  FREE

Time of Event:
3:00 PM Run

Start at Fleet Feet Sports - Piper's Alley
1620 N. Wells St., Chicago, Illinois
The course head north along the running path towards Fullerton Ave and return.
Maps will be provided on the day of the event.

Charity Involvement:
Bring a can of Food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository
Your Can of food will also get you an additional 10% your Black Friday Purchase at Fleet Feet Sports
Bring a old race t-shirt for St Vincent DePaul
Bring gentle used shoes for Share Your Soles

Pre and Post Race:
A variety of refreshments will be provided to participants while supplies last
Water and Gatorade. Beer will be provided to those over the age of 21.

Eat Like An RD for Thanksgiving

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Julie, Regina and me eating like RDs at Menton in Boston.

Want to keep it simple and healthy for Thanksgiving?  If so, my co-author and friend Julie Upton, MS, RD has outlined what she and her cycling guru husband will be doing for Turkey day.  I decided to cross-post her ideas because she keeps it simple, tells you why it's good for you and includes tips for preparation.  Check out Julie's turkey talk at Eat Like An RD - or as I like to call this holiday post, Eat Like Julie and Craig! 


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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Have a Guilt-Free Halloween!

In case you haven't heard, childhood obesity is out of control in this country.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 16.9% of all kids are obese in the US.  Among 6-11 year olds, 19.6% are obese (up from 6.5% in 1976-1980).  Ugh, that sounds like the age of the plastic-masked trick or treaters that will be knocking on your door for Halloween this year.  As for the other costumed tikes, obesity rates have risen over the years as well.  Among preschool children aged 2-5, obesity increased from 5.0% to 10.4% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008.  The more mischievous also have "grown" - among adolescents aged 12-19, obesity increased from 5.0% to 18.1% during the same period. Are you haunted with guilt by the idea of filling their pumpkin heads with "fun sized" chocolate grenades that could contribute to these gut wrenching stats?  It's out of control and time for us to make some tough decisions about the role we play as junk-distributing adults.  I know that we like to emphasize that it's the parents' responsibility to manage their kid's crap intake...but let's lend a healthy hand! 

While it may not make you the most popular house on the block, there are ways to thwart the guilt, take a bold stand and offer treats that don't stick to their child-sized ribs.  I'm proposing a radical move, an out-of-the ordinary motion to do something wickedly outrageous this Halloween.  An act that will squelch your guilt - a recommendation to opt out of feeding childhood obesity this candy crazed season.  I'm proposing that you commit random acts of fitness and fun by filling those pillow cases (we carried pillow cases as kids) with exercise-promoting tools or just silly, kid-friendly toys that won't make them fat.  Blasphemy?  Maybe.  Guilt-free?  Certainly.  Better for the kids?  100%.

Don't believe that Halloween candy will move the dial?  Check out this calculator from to see how much walking is required to "burn off" a treat. 

Consider these not-so-scary treats and old school options that you can easily pick-up at a party or dollar store!  I found a lot of these at

Note:  I know that some of you are going to think I'm crazy.  I'm OK with that.   

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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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