Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for March, 2012

Roasted Tomatoes


Roasted Tomatoes

Technically a fruit, we use tomatoes more like a vegetable. Tomatoes are SO healthy! They have no fat or cholesterol, very few calories, sugar and sodium, yet pack a lot of flavor and nutrients. They have a good dose of Vitamins A, C, K, folate and choline, and minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Their high antioxidant content makes them good cancer fighters as well, sweeping up all those free radicals we accumulate from other “bad” foods, particularly those with nitrates and nitrites, grilled foods, etc.

Roasting tomatoes brings out the intense tomato flavor that is delicious with the right herbs and spices. I find the best complement to tomatoes are spices used frequently in Italian cooking: parsley, oregano and basil. Because they will bake and absorb the seasonings, you can happily use dried herbs, but feel free to use fresh if you want to.

I use many kinds of tomatoes, but the juicier varieties are the best. Roma tomatoes are nice, but tricky to stand in the baking dish due to their shape. Slice lengthwise if using this variety. Here is the simple recipe. Enjoy.

Discard the stem. Slice tomatoes in half and line up on a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the tomatoes with dried oregano, basil and parsley (equal amounts of each) and a dusting of salt if you like, though it is not necessary if you are minding your sodium intake.

You can also sprinkle with grated parmesan or romano cheese (then don’t use the salt) and bake at 350 degrees. The length of time depends on the size of your tomatoes. For cherry tomatoes, 20 minutes will do. For medium to larger ones you will need at least 30 minutes, and up to 45 minutes. Remove and serve!

Also good at room temperature, so you can make it a little ahead if you need the oven for other dishes.

Substitute These Things to Make it Lighter


There are many ways to continue enjoying the same dishes we have always liked, by substituting a few ingredients. Most of the time, no one will be the wiser – but everyone will be healthier. Try these substitutions in your recipes:

1 whole egg 2 egg whites
1 egg yolk 1 egg white
1 egg for thickening 2 Tbs. flour
1 oz. baking chocolate 3 TBS cocoa powder + I Tbs. canola oil
Fudge sauce Chocolate syrup (lite)
Nuts Use half. Toast them for more flavor
Coconut Dried fruit
Frosting Meringue, fat-free whipped topping, confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder, jam
High fat choice & prime meat Low-fat “select” cuts
Ground meat Use 90% lean or higher variety
Lunch meat Turkey, chicken or lean ham best, but best to eliminate altogether (nitrites are bad for your health)
Sausage Veggie sausage
Bacon Canadian bacon or lean ham
Salad dressing Use olive oil, water and vinegar or lemon of commercial fat-free dressing
Creamed soups Broth w/o fat or skim milk
Whole milk Skim, or 1%
Cream Evaporated fat-free milk or fat-free half & half
Whipped cream Whipped chilled evaporated skim milk or low/fat-free whipped topping.
Sour cream Fat-free sour cream. Use fat-free yogurt in dip.
Mayonnaise Low-fat or fat-free mayo. Use fat-free yogurt in dip.
Cream cheese Reduced fat or fat-free (Don’t bake with fat-free)
Ricotta cheese 1% cottage cheese, low or non-fat ricotta
All cheeses Skim mozzarella or reduced fat-cheeses
Butter, lard, shortening Use canola or margarine with no trans-fats.
Stick margarine Soft, tub, squeeze or whipped, reduced fat and fat free. Check labels for suitability in baking or frying.
Oil (in baking) Use equal amount of applesauce or twice the amount of plain, low-fat yogurt.

Source: Government of Virginia

We Have a Right to Know. Thank you Connecticut.


The Department of Agriculture opposed Connecticut’s move toward requiring manufacturers to disclose when food is genetically modified. Some feel that modified foods increase the risk of allergic reactions and other health problems. On the pro side, modification can increase nutritional value and make hardier plants, requiring less pesticide. Whatever the argument for or against, the principle that most interests me is that we be allowed to make up our own minds. The government should not allow food manufacturers to dictate whether it is important for consumers to know how their food is produced. Consumers have been increasingly vocal about their desire to know where their food comes from, how it is produced and if it is safe. They have a right to decide what is acceptable to them. Only with labeling, can they have the information they need to make these decisions.

So, hooray to Connecticut’s Environment Committee for voting 23-6 to approve a measure to require labeling. While there will be logistical challenges to label in some states and not others, it is only through grass roots efforts (by consumers) and political support (our legislators) that we can force issues that are important to us. Twenty other states are also considering this legislation. With Connecticut leading the charge, it is more likely others will follow, putting pressure on the FDA to act. I am proud to live in this state and know my elected officials are working to dignify consumers by requiring the information we need to make our own choices.

Reliable Nutrition Information


This entry is a follow up to my post, “Who and What Should you Believe?” I talked then about looking for credentials when seeking someone to provide reliable nutrition information or counsel you on matters of nutritional health. In this post, I will provide some further information about how to examine information critically and assess the reliability of the source. There are many unscrupulous counselors and organizations who are selling a product. They may cite research that is either bogus, inadequate or not scientifically rigorous. to ensure you get good information, try some of these sites:

1. Look for documented research to back the claims. Many university, other academic and government agencies conduct research. Look for studies that had a large number of subjects and were done over a period of time. The outcomes of experiments with food intakes and behaviors are not evident after 3 weeks. Beware any magic solution that has you achieve a goal in a month.

2. Listen to your gut feelings. If it sounds too good to be true – it is. Just because someone lost 50 pounds in 3 months, doesn’t mean it’s true. Even if it were, it would not be healthy and I guarantee you, it will be gained back in no time. There is no substitute for a permanent change in behavior and healthy eating.

3. Whenever a source vilifies one kind of food, beware. Most foods are fine moderation. It is the continued practice of overeating and eating too much of the wrong things that gets us into trouble with our health.

4. Language you can’t understand is like double-talk. You get enough of it to sound reasonable, though you think it is just a little above your head. No, it is designed to trick you into believing the part you do understand – which is whatever they are selling. If the message is not clear and comprehensible, walk away!

5. Verify the information you are exploring. Use reliable, science-based resources. Here are a few sites with great information:

-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov)

-Academy of Nutrition and dietetics (formerly American Dietetics Association) http://www.eatright.org)

-The Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com)

-The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (www.yaleruddcenter.org)

USDA‘s ChoseMyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov)

Dinner “Clubs”


If you like to socialize, love good food and are interested in improving your healthy eating habits, I have an idea for you. What better way to do this than by sharing your journey with other like-minded people?

Invite some friends interested in cooking or learning how to cook, to join you in a dinner club. It is based around rotating houses and sharing responsibilities for a meal. Everyone helps at each meal and all split the cost. It is still cheaper and infinitely healthier than eating out – and you don’t have to tip! Here’s how it works:

1.Locate and invite enough people to ensure a good number at each event, but keep in mind how many can be comfortably accommodated at each member’s home.

  1. Decide how often you all want to meet: monthly? quarterly?
  2. Create a schedule, rotating homes.
  3. The host plans the whole meal, prepares the entree and picks up the beverages (alcoholic or not or both). S/he delegates the side dishes, desserts, salads, etc. according to the meal plan. Everyone contributes their share of the whole cost at the end of the meal.

Simple? What’s so different than any other dinner club you may be wondering? Here’s is the catch: The recipes have to be low in fat (compared to the norm; we are not getting crazy!). That means no cream sauces that use real cream. Thicken them with starches or by reducing the through simmering. Use healthy fats/oils: butter no or limited. Olive and canola? Yes. Meals should contain reasonable portions: a variety of vegetables (filling half the plate), 3-4 oz of animal protein, or alternate protein if you feel daring enough to find a good recipe. Try tofu (it comes in many textures), beans or add more veggies. Your grains should be whole grains or starches like sweet potato, and fill less than one quarter of the plate. See “myPlate for may ideas, recipes, calorie counts, tools to track your calories, activity, weight, etc. www.choosemyplate.gov.

Eating well and enjoying good food IS possible with a little effort. Best of all, sharing the time with your friends is really what nourishes your soul. The meal is a healthy bonus and gift to your bodies.

National Nutrition Month


March is National Nutrition Month. This campaign is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) and is bring awareness to eating and activity habits that promote good health. This website has great resources for all ages and educators, available free to the public. There you will find recipes, information about snacks, food groups, nutrients, shopping, food labels, games and activities: http://www.eatright.org/nnm/content.aspx?id=5342

Also visit the USDA’s website for more information for consumers and professionals. You will find health tips, recipes, activity and calorie trackers, information for special populations such as pregnant and lactating women, preschoolers, dieters, etc.  http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Make 2012 the year YOU become healthy.

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