Archive for the ‘Healthy Eating with Carolyn O'Neil’ Category

HEALTHY EATING: Cold weather crops on menus

By Carolyn O’Neil

While winter doesn’t officially blow into town until December, restaurant menus are starting to heat up with the healthy flavors of cold weather crops. Shorter days with less sunshine don’t have to be bleak, especially when chefs brighten up menus with seasonal treats such as winter squash, turnips, brussels sprouts, kale and radishes.

Say you don’t like radishes or can’t stand turnips? Maybe you should try them again, especially if a talented chef shows you the way. Skirt steak served with a warm bean salad and locally grown Japanese turnips from Moore Farms is a popular menu item at Bocado in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood.

Chef Todd Ginsberg, who has packed Bocado’s menu with the farm fresh flavors of the season, says, “I love the grocery list this time of year. When you get into winter months there’s less sweetness in produce and more bitter flavors so I like to roast vegetables like beets and Brussels sprouts to bring out a sweeter caramelized flavor …

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HEALTHY EATING: Sweet predicament at the table

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

Have you noticed how crowded the restaurant sugar bowl is getting? It’s a multicolored collection of little packets in pink, blue, yellow and green. Even sugar comes in two colors: white and brown. And some places add a packet of honey to the mix.

Sweeteners were invented to taste like sugar without all the calories. For instance, every time you choose a diet soft drink instead of the real thing, you consume 150 fewer calories.

But choosing a non-caloric sweetener for your morning coffee saves only 15 calories when you give up a teaspoon of sugar.

The weight control effect of substituting really depends on how much sugar you usually consume.

Turbinado sugar

Turbinado sugar is currently popular with consumers. Chris Hunt, for the AJC.

Still, the party line from the Calorie Control Council, a trade group representing companies that sell artificial sweeteners, is that the products are a valuable tool in the struggle to maintain caloric balance.

Dr. Adam Drewnowski, …

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HEALTHY EATING: Nuts get an image boost

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

There’s a nut war going on, and it’s more than the usual squirrel battle to gather the most food before winter sets in.

Growers of almonds, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are clamoring to communicate the big health benefits in each bite.

Nuts (and seeds) are a healthy snack choice. Photo by CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special

Nuts (and seeds) are a healthy snack choice. Photo by CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special

Nuts as a category have emerged as one of the health heroes in the food world. Not too long ago nuts suffered from an image problem because of their high calorie content.

But today studies show that people who regularly eat nuts — about 1½ ounces a day, five days a week — are at much lower risk of having their arteries clog than non-nut eaters. (By they way, 11/2 ounces is a handful, not a can full.)

“Nuts have gotten a bad rap for being ‘fattening.’ The truth is nuts are nutrient powerhouses full of anti-oxidants, protein, fiber and minerals,” said registered dietitian Marisa Moore, an Atlanta spokeswoman for the American Dietetic …

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HEALTHY EATING: Sneak peek at nutrition trends

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

eatingoutHungry appetites looking for more gluten-free food products, wondering about the next wave in antioxidant super fruit or craving tasty snacks that just happen to be healthy are in for a bumper crop of satisfying solutions.

Scoping out what’s new at an annual confab some call “Fashion Week for Food and Nutrition” (The American Dietetic Association’s 2009 Food and Nutrition Conference held in Denver recently) I observed companies out in force to convince registered dietitians that their foods and beverages fit in with fitness.

The good news for foodies is that as competition heats up in the diet and wellness category, so do efforts to create better tasting options. Good health is appealing, but great taste seals the deal.

Taste Satisfaction: Greek-style yogurts made a bigger presence this year. Dietitians like them because they are higher in protein than other yogurts and tend to be thicker and richer tasting, adding staying power and satisfaction to weight …

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HEALTHY EATING: Spices boost health benefits, too

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

It turns out that a pinch of red pepper or dash of curry powder not only turns up the heat to boost flavors in dishes, but it also can add a helping of health benefits, too.

eatingout.1021Nutrition research supports new reasons to season dishes with herbs and spices including cinnamon, ginger, oregano, red pepper and yellow curry powder. Blueberries, pomegranates and other deeply colored fruits may be famous for their high antioxidant content; but it turns out that some spices rank really high, too.

One teaspoon of cinnamon has the disease fighting antioxidant power of a full cup of pomegranate juice or half cup of blueberries. The specific kind of antioxidant compounds found in cinnamon called polyphenols have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and fight inflammation which can increase risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Feel even better about the cinnamon sprinkled on your oatmeal? But don’t try to use this spicy news to help justify downing one of those …

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HEALTHY EATING: Being safe while dining out

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

Was it something you ate?  Chances are that bout of indigestion or full-blown stomach cramps wasn’t caused by a “touch of the flu.” Food-borne illness caused by harmful bacteria or other pathogens is a common occurrence. Statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate there’s 76 million cases of food-borne illness in the U.S. each year.

chickenWhile no one knows how many of those cases were caused by restaurant foods, a CDC analysis of national food-borne outbreak surveillance data shows that 52 percent of outbreaks reported between 1998 and 2004 were associated with restaurants, delis, cafeterias and hotels. Of course the restaurant industry is all for reducing these numbers and has stepped up efforts to train employees in food safety. And with government sanitation inspection scores on display for customers to see, it’s good business to get good grades, “I wouldn’t eat anywhere with a sanitation score lower than an A,” says noted …

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HEALTHY EATING: Meal plan adds vegetarian menu

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat like one. The health benefits of eating a plant-based cuisine may be the main motivation, but taste buds are rewarded, too, with dishes such as eggplant torta with goat cheese or Acapulco chili with kidney beans and cannellini beans topped with fresh chives over steamed brown rice.

eatingout.1007“The big surprise when we introduced the new vegetarian menus was the number of nonvegetarians who signed up to receive the meals,” said Elston Collins of Good Measure Meals (www.goodmeasuremeals
.com), an Atlanta-based company that provides fresh gourmet meal plans that are calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced.

Customer demand for vegetarian meals prompted the company — which donates all profits to Open Hand, a nutrition program for senior citizens and the chronically ill — to hold focus groups to find out what was important to vegetarians and to start testing recipes to fit nutritional guidelines. Vegetarian menus for breakfast, …

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HEALTHY EATING: Menus change with the seasons

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

Fall fashions with richer colors, sleeker shapes and sturdier fabrics signal a time to put summer’s gauzy pastels away and get ready for a change in the weather.

The same thing’s happening on seasonal restaurant menus as chefs turn to autumn’s rustic flavors.

eatingout.0930Melons and berries make way for baked apples and roasted acorn squash. Citrus sauces recede, and toasted nuts arrive.

“It’s actually one of the easiest seasons to cook from,” said Clifford Pleau, executive chef and director of culinary development for Seasons 52 restaurants, “because summer’s sun leads to autumn harvests.”

So why not enjoy three varieties of squash at once?

Pleau created a squash trio of delicata, acorn and butternut, but rather than slathering on the butter, he livens up the vegetable side dish with a tasty glaze of maple syrup, chipotle, mint and lime juice.

Even though the menu at Seasons 52’s two Atlanta restaurants boasts the light promise of “every item under 475 calories,” dishes …

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HEALTHY EATING: Snacks can fill hunger and nutrition gaps

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

Weight control research shows that the best way to distribute calories throughout the day is to eat three meals and a snack or two, depending on your schedule and the size of the meals and snacks, of course.

Snacking in between breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime has become a way of life for many Americans. According to a survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 85 percent of women eat between meals, with an average of two snacks per day. Twenty-four percent of snackers said they crave chocolate, while 19 percent preferred something salty, such as chips or pretzels.

Regardless of what you crave, when the snack attack hits, there are lots of choices to satisfy the sweet or salty urges in lower-calorie ways — from frozen chocolate pops made with skim milk to baked chips made with whole grains.

The good news is that snacks are not only OK, they can be a healthy addition to your daily diet.

Registered dietitian Lanier Thompson put her …

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HEALTHY EATING: Navigating fast-food rules

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

Just because a food is fast doesn’t make it fattening. “Fast food” has long been associated with bags bulging with greasy burgers and fries. But simplistic nutrition advice to avoid drive-through windows and the affordable fare at quick-serve restaurants is outdated and unrealistic.

breakfast.0109bAnd, it’s not even helpful. It’s sort of like driver’s education — sure, you can avoid being in a car accident by staying away from cars. But isn’t it better to learn the skills needed to navigate safely?

In the same way, modern nutrition advice should offer specific suggestions based on what works for your lifestyle, taste buds and pocketbook.

So here, then, are some road rules for a fast-food “Diner’s Education.”

Fast-food lane: It can be a green light. From burgers to bean burritos, the offerings at food places dotting the highways and on every corner of every town include standardization and convenience. Most offer grilled versions of chicken sandwiches, an array of fresh …

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