Thursday, May 26, 2011

It’s Spring: Let’s Root for Ramps!

In all my attempts to be nutritionally savvy, one challenge I find is eating seasonally. In theory it sounds quite simple, but what if it’s May and I happen to have a craving for Brussels sprouts? Yes, I know “Bad Dietitian”; so what is another green vegetable that will satisfy my veggie yearning in season? Ramps! Only in season for a few brief spring to pre-summer months, how seasonally chic.

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Ramps, or wild leeks, are in the onion family and look like a combination of onions, leeks, and scallions. They have a white bulb, green leafs, and white/pink stalks, with an onion-garlic aroma & flavor. 1 cup has only 54 Kcal, 0 fat, and 2 g fiber, making this unique veggie a great Bang for your bite. Ramps contain vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium, and chromium. Vitamin A is good for your vision, while vitamin C holds the title for powerful antioxidant: did you know it plays an important role in wound healing, too? Vitamin C helps with connective tissue synthesis and collagen formation, AKA, building and repairing skin. As for selenium, our bodies turn it into proteins, or enzymes, that speed up metabolic activities in the body, such as thyroid gland actions and oxidation reactions within cells. Finally, ode to chromium for playing a vital role in the digestion and absorption of fats and carbohydrates, helping to synthesize fatty acids for our brain’s use, and playing a role in insulin regulation (the protein that regulates the uptake of sugar from our blood into the cells of our body, for use).

At the market, look for…

Leafs that are dry, firm, and not yellowing or wilted

Store them…

Sealed tightly in an air-free bag in the fridge (after cleaning and trimming). Use as ASAP, as these ramps are a bit temperamental to storage.


The whole thing! To use in a dish, clean thoroughly (as it is a root veg), trim off any loose ends and cut away any spots. Then chop from the green leaves down to the bulb The flavor is stronger as you go down from leafs to the bulb, so for a more milder flavor, use only the greens.

Try a ramp pesto, check out this recipe we found online.

Cook this seasonal dinner tonight…

Spaghetti a la ramp

  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti (cooked al dente in salted water, according to package, reserve ½ cup of pasta water for later use)
  • ½ lb ramps, blanched and chopped
  • 1 box cherry tomatoes, halved
  • parmesan cheese, freshly grated, about ½ cup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • fresh basil, washed and roughly chopped

  1. Wash and trim ramps. To blanch, submerge in boiling water for 15-30 seconds, remove instantly and roughly chop from the leaves through the bulb.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add halved cherry tomatoes and ramps, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pasta and ½ cup of pasta water, mix.
  4. Add in grated Parmesan and basil and mix to combine, taste first, and then season with salt & pepper. Serve immediately.
--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Monday, May 23, 2011

A marinade made in heaven…

Despite all this recent unpleasant weather we’ve been having here in NY, with Memorial Day this weekend comes the start of summer! I could not be more excited for weekend getaways, swimming, and most of all grilling and barbequing! While you are picking out that Memorial Day outfit, remember to dress your meats up well for the BBQ…

Why have you done a good thing?

Along with roasting, baking, and broiling, grilling is an extremely lean way to cook meats, poultry, and fish, as you are not adding much additional fat if any and much of the fat cooks away during the process. Not to mention, grilling up your dinner is a very fast, convenient, and fun cooking method for during the week or weekend get together. The important thing to remember is how you marinade. Many store-bought marinades can be high in sodium, sugar and calories. Making your own marinades is not only lower in sodium and calories but is a great way to add fresh herbs into your diet and experiment with new flavors. Marinating is important to bring flavor to your meat, make it juicy, and to make it tender. Although it is appealing to just dredge your meat in some sauce from a jar, making your own marinade is just as convenient and fast.

Tricks to a good marinade include:

1) Include an acid. This will help to tenderize your meat or poultry as well as bring a nice contrasting flavor. Plus adding an acid has been shown to drastically reduce cancer-causing agents called HCA’s from being created during the grilling process. Acids include vinegars, citrus, or alcohol.

2) Add an oil. Oil not only helps foods from sticking to the grill, but also to keep the meat juicy by holding in moisture.

3) Bring out the flavor. In addition to oil and an acid, adding spices, herbs, and seasonings truly bring out the flavor of your meat, poultry, or fish. Don’t just rely on salt and pepper! Fresh herbs do a great job of bringing out natural flavors. Experiment with fresh herbs like basil, mint, parsley, etc!

4) Give chicken and steak some time to get to know the marinade. The longer meat or chicken sits in a marinade, the better the flavor and more tender and more juicy the meat or chicken. Let it is sit overnight in the marinade or at least 30 minutes before you cook it. Fish does not need the same amount of time as it is already very delicate. Put marinades on fish right before cooking.

Here are some great marinade recipes for your Memorial Day cookout (click here for a printable version of the recipes plus a grocery list!):

Lemon Herb Rub

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 tbsp fresh parsely, minced

1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced

1 tbsp fresh basil, minced

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together and rub on chicken or fish!

Red Wine Citrus Marinade

2 cups good quality red wine (like chianti or pinot noir)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsp lemon zest

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together and marinade a steak overnight in the mixture!

South of the Border Marinade

1 can of Corona Light

½ cup lime juice

1 small onion, diced

¼ cup fresh mint, minced

1 tbsp lime zest

3 tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp canola oil

Mix all ingredients together and grilled chicken or steak.

Balsamic BBQ Sauce

1 cup balsamic vinegar

¾ cup ketchup

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp Worchester Sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp canola oil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Place all ingredients together in a small saucepan and reduce on low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Great marinade for chicken or steak.

Asian Dijon

3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

6 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp minced garlic

½ tsp minced ginger

1 tsp sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients together and marinade chicken, steak, or fish.

Happy Start to Summer Everyone!!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not just mini peaches…

As springtime rolls around, I start to get very excited about new fruits and veggies that come into season. Although I love my apples, citrus fruits, and dark greens, I want some new colors in my life. What better way to start of the season with a bang than some bright, vibrant, and delectably cute orange sweeties: the apricot.

Why have you done a good thing?

Not just mini peaches, an apricot’s puckery yet sweet taste is a perfect addition to a healthy spring diet. Apricots, due to their beautiful orange color, are packed full of vitamin A (in beta-carotene form), a powerful antioxidant that protects you from oxidative damage such in heart disease or cancer. In particular, beta- carotene helps promote healthy eyes and good vision, fighting off macular degeneration and night blindness. Vitamin A is also great for skin conditions, such as acne or eczema. Apricots are also a great source of fiber (3 g for 3 apricots), as it has a great balance of pectin and cellulose, giving apricots a slight laxative effect. As apricots also are a great source of vitamin C, pairing apricots with a rich source of iron, like spinach, would help to boost the absorption of iron and fight anemia. Apricots are also loaded with potassium, helping to regulate blood pressure. Plus, as one apricot is only 17 calories, a serving size can be 2 or 3 of them, making them a very satisfying dessert or snack!

How to pick an apricot

Apricots are now in season from May until August. Choose apricots that are bright in orange color, not yellowish. The fruit should be slightly soft like a peach to the touch but not mushy. You can speed up ripening when you come home from the store by placing apricots in a brown paper bag for a couple of days.

How can you eat apricots?

  • Add sliced apricots to your oatmeal
  • Add dried or fresh apricots to your whole grain pancakes and low-fat baked goods
  • Simmer with cinnamon and water and make a fresh apricot sauce to pour over chicken (for a Middle Eastern flavor) or low-fat frozen yogurt
  • Puree peeled apricots for a delicious Bellini
  • Sautee fresh apricot slices in your next chicken or fish dish

And my new obsession, grilling fruit! Really brings out the sweetness…

  • Grill apricots and add them to anything: salads, sandwiches or homemade pizza with a tangy cheese like low-fat goat cheese

Grilled Apricots (click here for a printable recipe and grocery list)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp honey

6 fresh apricots, halved with pit removed

Pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat your outdoor grill or indoor grill pan. Combine oil and honey. Gently brush mixture onto apricots. Place on hot grill cut side down for 2 minutes. Remove from grill and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let cool and slice to add to anything you like!!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Your Sweet, Salty, Cheesy, Creamy, Chocolately Fix

At the end of the day, I truly look forward to a sweet tooth fix, particularly if it has chocolate in it. But while trying to lose some weight for summertime, I want to be calorie conscious. With so many 100 calorie packs and snacks out there, how do you know what is a good pick?

Why have you done a good thing?

While fresh fruits, veggies, yogurts are great choices, sometimes you want something a little more special and decadent. Portion controlled snacks that are around 100-150 calories are very important for weight maintenance. Especially during weight loss, it is great to include 1 mid-morning, mid-afternoon and after dinner snack and keep your meal portions small, so you are eating every 4 hours. However, it’s really hard to control yourself sometimes when the bag is just too big or when you are scooping out your own ice cream. Buying portion-controlled snacks is an easy, convenient way of planning your snacks for the day or sweet treat for the night without undoing all your hard work. But not all 100-calorie packs or low cal snacks are created equal. Many of these packs still contain trans fats and other chemicals as they are just miniaturized versions of the real thing.

Here’s a Your Secret Ingredient approved list of snack fixes…sweet, salty, and savory alike. (click here for a printable grocery snack list!!)

The Creamy Side

Breyer’s Smooth and Dreamy Chocolate Covered Strawberry Bars (110 calories)

Ciao Bella Fat Free Blood Orange Sorbet Bars (60 calories)

Ciao Bella Individual Sorbet Cups (100 calories)

Edy’s Whole Fruit Creamy Coconut Bars (120 calories)

SkinnyCow Ice Cream Truffle Pops (110 calories)

SkinnyCow Ice Cream Lowfat Fudge Bars (100 calories)

SkinnyCow Ice cream sandwich (140 calories)

Tofutti Cuties Ice cream sandwich (130 calories)

Trader Joes Mango and Cream bars (60 calories)

Heavenly Chocolate

Emerald’s 100 calorie Cocoa Almonds Packs (100 calories)

Goldfish Crackers 100 calorie Chocolate Grahams pack

Ian’s Organic Cookie Buttons (100 calories)

Hersheys and Reeses 100 calorie snack packs and bars (100 calories)

Kozy Shack Individualized Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding (110 calories)

Pretzel M&Ms Individualized Pack (150 calories)

Sensible Portions Cheating with Chocolate Packs (100 calories)

Smart Food Popcorn Clusters (110 calories)

Trader Joe’s 100 calorie chocolate bars

Trader Joe’s 100 calorie oatmeal chocolate chip cookie packs

Vitalicious VitaTops deep chocolate muffin top (100 calories)

Vitalicious VitaBrownies (100 calories)

Van’s Muffin Crowns (100 calories)

Cheesey Goodness

100 calorie pack of Goldfish cheddar cheese crackers

Babybell cheese (70 calories)

Sargento Light String Cheese (50 calories)

Cabot Serious Snacking 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar (50 calories)

Salty Fix

100 calorie bag of Popchips

100 calorie pack of PopSecret (regular popcorn and kettle corn)

100 calorie pack of Synder’s pretzels

Davids pumpkin seeds mini bag (90 calories)

100 calorie Sun Chip packs

Trader Joes 100 calorie multigrain crackers

Tribe Mini Hummus (100 calories)

Bars on the Go

Kashi TLC Granola Bars (130 calories)

Cascadian Farms Kid’s Sized Oatmeal Raisin Bars (80 calories)

Cliff Kid Sized Z-Bars Chocolate Chip (130 calories)

Gnu Flavor Fiber Cinnamon Raisin Bar (130 calories)

Mini Lara Bars (100 calories)

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It’s Time for a Round-up: Good for your Gut

First thing in the morning, it’s hard to make a decision. So that’s why I like to assure my clients that yogurt is always an easy choice. However, when I walked into Whole Foods the other day, it was clear to me that this choice was not so simple. There are so many different kinds of yogurt to choose from, Cow, Goat, Sheep, Organic, Greek- I am overwhelmed already. So, lets break it down…

Why Have You done a Good Thing?

Yogurt is naturally full of probiotics, or “healthy bacteria”, that lodges in our digestive tract and promotes a powerful immune system. It is suggested that this bacteria may help alleviate certain infections, such as yeast infections, and combat specific types of GI diseases, such as Chron’s disease or IBS. Although these findings are still being studied, research strongly supports the anti-diarrheal effect of these probiotics, often found in the form of Lactobacilli or L. acidophilus

So here are the options…

1. Regular-old yogurt.

Go for the one with the least ingredients, often this will be the organic type. Try…

  • Stonyfield Organic 0% Pomegranate Berry yogurt
130 Kcal, 0 fat, 7g protein
  • Dannon: All Natural Vanilla
150 Kcal, 2.5g fat, 7g protein

I would pass on the Light & Fit and Weight Watchers yogurts- see their extensive ingredient list to see why.

2. Go for the Greek

Greek yogurt is a fabulous source of lean protein. Let’s compare…

  • Fage total 0%: 100 Kcal, 18g protein
  • Chobani plain nonfat: 100 Kcal, 18g protein
  • Stonyfield organic Oikos plain nonfat: 80 Kcal, 15g protein (but smaller serving size)

SO, it doesn’t really matter what the brand, all Greek yogurt seems to be created equally nutritious!

3. Also try Siggi’s

Icelandic style, non-fat skyr- made right here in NY!

100 Kcal, o fat, 14g protein

  • Iclandic style yogurt is made from skim milk and strained to create a very thick and protein-filled product. (similar to Greek but slightly thicker). Try the Ginger-orange flavor for a more savory treat.

4. How about some goat milk?

Try Redwood Hill Farm vanilla Goat Milk Yogurt. 140 Kcal, 5g fat, 7g protein

  • Although not proven, some say it’s better for digestion as some people with cows milk allergies can tolerate goat, potentially due to different protein profiles (goat and cow milk both contain lactose). The fat content is minimal, so goat is a good choice, with a nice thin consistency.

5. Or maybe some sheep milk?

Try Old Catham Sheparding Co’s Strawberry Rhubarb Sheep’s Milk Yogurt: 137 Kcal, 9g fat, 10g protein

  • Sheep’s milk is higher in fat and calories than cow or goat, with a similar taste to goat, so it may not be the first choice. It may be beneficial to people with malabsorption, as it contains mostly small and medium chain fatty acids, that are more easily digested in these individuals.

6. Go down under…

Try Wallaby Organic low-fat creamy Australian style yogurt: maple: 140 Kcal, 2.5g fat, 6g protein

  • The only true difference with this yogurt is the taste, so give it a try! It is a tad higher in fat that traditional yogurt, but not enough to sway you, especially with its silky smooth finish.

7. Cant take the lactose?

Try Whole Soy & Co mixed berry soy yogurt: 180 Kcal, 3.5g fat, 6g protein

Not into soy? Try Lactose Free Green Valley Organics Natural Honey Yogurt: 140 Kcal, 2g fat, 7g protein

The lactose free has less ingredients and therefore beats out its soy competitor in this match.

I hope this has prepared you to make a highly informed yogurt decision. Enjoy them all as vital parts of a healthy and varied diet; all while being good to your gut!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD CDN

Sunday, May 1, 2011

PASTAabilities: I’m all choked up…

If you are like me, you love vegetables but want them to be easy and readily available to eat. I prep my vegetables when I come home from the store for easy cooking during the work week. However, there is one spring vegetable that cannot be prepped ahead of time, but it’s well worth the effort: artichokes!

Why have you done a good thing?

I used to find artichokes incredibly intimidating, but I learned that not only are they delicious, but extremely healthy. Artichokes are a great source of folate, potassium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C and magnesium! One large artichoke has 6 g of fiber and only 60 calories! What a great BANG for your BITE!

Artichokes are also arguably the vegetable with the highest source of antioxidants. Specifically, research shows that artichoke leaves contain cynarin, a powerful antioxidant, that helps to decrease your LDL cholesterol by increasing the excretion of cholesterol from your body and decreasing the amount of LDL cholesterol your liver naturally makes. Artichokes also help out the liver by containing milk thistle, which helps the liver protect itself from dangerous toxins. Artichokes have also been shown to help alleviate symptoms of IBS and stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

But how to do you prep an artichoke?

Although artichokes seem intimidating, they are very manageable. You can eat an artichoke in 2 forms: 1) In its whole form (possibly stuffed), where you eat it by pulling off the leaves one by one and dipping them in sauces; 2) Completely cleaned and only the choke or artichoke heart (AKA the middle part of the artichoke) is consumed, chopped up and added to dishes.

Check out these two step-by-step guides to learn how to clean and prep artichokes, so you can eat them anyway you want:

Check out this video on how to clean and prep an artichoke in its whole form.

If you want to get to the choke or artichoke heart, use this step by step website:

No time to prep a whole artichoke?

That’s OK because now food manufacturers have caught on to this and sell frozen artichoke hearts, ready to cook! I always keep a package of frozen artichoke hearts in my freezer for easy weeknight cooking.

Healthy Artichokes Recipe Ideas:

1) Steam them up whole and dip the fleshy part of the leaves in pesto, garlic or herb infused olive oil, or Greek yogurt

2) Stuff an artichoke with diced onions, peppers, and carrots, top with olive oil, whole wheat bread crumbs, and couple tablespoons of fresh parmesan cheese and bake!

3) Add artichoke hearts to your next salad.

4) Take artichokes out to the grill. Cut a whole artichoke in half and grill with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

5) Blend together artichoke hearts, parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic together in a food processor. Slowly add in olive oil to make a delicious pesto sauce! Spread on bread or fresh veggies at parties, add to a sandwich, or mix with pasta!

6) Add artichoke hearts to your next chicken or fish dish.

7) Try this PASTAabilities recipe for artichokes:

Weeknight Artichoke Penne (serves 4-6) (click here for a printable version + a grocery list of this recipe)

½ lb (or ½ box) whole-wheat penne

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, minced

½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 white wine (suggest Pinot Grigio)

1, 9 ounce box frozen artichoke hearts

1 cup frozen peas

¼ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Boil a pot of water and cook penne until just short of al dente. Reserve one cup of starchy cooking water (the water that the pasta cooked in). Set aside.

In a large skillet on a low flame, heat the olive oil, garlic together for a couple of minutes. Add the artichoke hearts, salt, red pepper flakes, wine and cook covered until hearts are tender (about 5 minutes). Add the peas and cook for about 3 more minutes covered. Uncover and add the pasta, starchy cooking water into the skillet. Add the grated parmesan cheese. When cheese has melted and sauce has thickened slightly (about 2 minutes), plate and serve! Top with fresh basil leaves. Serve with a side salad for good portion control.

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN