Monday, July 25, 2011

Beet It!

As the temperature continues to rise and the humidity moistens the air- it becomes a challenge to stay outdoors, even in the pool or at the beach (in the ocean). It’s on these days that the thought of eating hot food makes me a little squeamish. Luckily, at the same time as the temperature heats up, those dark brown bulbs (AKA beets) are beginning to appear in the garden. Beneath fuchsia stems and green leaves, they are just waiting to be pulled from underneath the dirt.

Why Have You Done a Good Thing ?

Firstly, if you’re eating anything from your own garden or someone else’s (i.e. Farmer’s markets) you are always doing a good thing. Second, beets are delicious and currently having their seasonal time to shine. We have always said, the darker the fruit or vegetable, the more nutrient-rich. Beets get their deep coloring from a combination of color pigments, called betalains. As you may know, there are golden beets and traditional red beets; due to the different combinations of color pigments in each species. They're kind of like fraternal twins: from the same mom (nutritionally speaking) but different looking and slightly different "personalities"(the golden beets tend to be a bit sweeter).

Both are wonderful sources of:

  • Antioxidants- fighting cell damage in the body
  • Potassium- fighting high blood pressure (along with a low-salt diet) & controlling muscle contractions
  • Folic Acid- vital for healthy fetal development
  • Bang for your Bite! 1 cup of beets has only ~75 calories & 3.5g fiber (plus alittle protein kicker (~3 g)

Can't Beet These Ideas:

  1. Plain! Simply boil and peel (after cutting off the roots and stems). Throw them in a green salad or eat them whole as a snack.
  2. Make Your Own Baby Food: simply puree those boiled beets!
  3. Breakfast: Make a smoothie with mixed berries, beets, and a bit of all-natural fruit sorbet or yogurt
  4. Lunch: pair red and golden beets with some arugula, goat cheese, and apple or pear slices; sprinkle with nuts for a great salad.
  5. Dinner (side dish): make roasted mixed beets, with a little olive oil and salt, roast at 425 F for 20-25 minutes
  6. Dessert: Be creative! Pureed beets are sweet and thus can be substituted for oils and sugars in some baking recipes. We found a chocolate beet cake, developed by Straight from the Farm website; looks awesome!

Plus: Use beets as a natural food coloring! Next time you want pink frosting, just add a touch of beet puree and/or fresh beet juice.

Just be careful with all these beets around the kitchen and on your hands, they do stain a bit! But hey, nothing wrong with getting dirty in order to BEET IT!

FYI- If you have never tried beets before, be warned. Sometimes your pee (or poo) can turn reddish from the pigments in beets. Perfectly normal (healthy) and no need to be alarmed!!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your Secret Ingredient Summer Guide: Crusin’ Through Summer

For the past few years, vacations with my family have been cruises or floating buffets. It can be difficult to manage your weight while still having a good time and treating yourself. Weekend getaways, BBQs, weddings all make it hard in the summer time as well. Luckily as a dietitian, I have some practice with this. Here is a guide to a healthy, but still indulgent, summer.

Planning Ahead for Traveling

1) Pack a meal. Finding a healthy meal in the airport or on a road trip can be quite the feat. Rather than searching for the one healthy choice on menus, why not be prepared and bring along a healthy sandwich? Pack your meal in an insulated bag with an ice pack for food safe traveling. For shorter trips, eat a healthy meal before you leave to make sure you don’t travel hungry.

2) Don’t forget snacks. Bring portion controlled snack choices like fruit, sliced veggies, granola bars, nuts, whole grain pretzels or crackers and string cheese for each member of your family so you don’t feel tempted to stop at fast food restaurants. Bring non-perishable snacks for the duration of your vacation too.

3) Pack exercise clothes. Don’t forget to bring clothes to workout to stay active on vacation!

4) Stay hydrated. Especially when traveling by airplane, you can easily dehydrate. Before getting on the plane, make sure you have water bottles to keep drinking during the flight. Alcohol will only dehydrate you further so stay away from alcohol during the flight.

5) Bring activities. If you tend to eat when you are bored, make sure you have plenty of activities to do on the airplane, in the car, etc. Eat only when you actually feel hungry and keep yourself and your family occupied with a movie, a book, cards, travel games, and car games like trivia

6) Take breaks. When traveling by car, take the time to pull over and take meal breaks. Stretch your legs, go for a walk, drink water and seltzer, and have a balanced meal from home to make sure you are well nourished for a long trip.

7) Get a good night’s sleep. No one likes to travel tired. If you are tired, you are also more likely to pick unhealthy choices.

When you get there…

1) Visit the grocery store. If you are staying in a hotel, it’s a great idea (and fun) to visit the local grocery store. Stock up on healthy snacks and water bottles.

2) Exercise daily. As much as you try, you are going to eat more than usual on vacation. Therefore, it’s important to offset the damage by staying active. Try to get in a workout everyday; swim laps in the pool/lake, go for a hike, go kayaking or canoeing, play tennis, go for a run on the beach, visit the gym, etc. Consciously include at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. I find it helps to start your day with physical activity to get it out of the way, especially if you are planning on enjoying some R and R poolside later on…

3) Be mindful when eating out. Eating out every meal on vacations, can be dangerous for weight maintenance. Here are some tips to make it through:

v Plan ahead and read the menu of places before you make reservations. Make sure they have healthy options to choose from.

v Use concierge and hotel recommendations to pick healthy restaurants.

v Think of your meal like a budget and determine how you want to spend your calories. Do you want an extra roll with dinner or another glass of wine? Alcohol or dessert? Make healthy substitutions to fit into your budget. Have a cappuccino instead of dessert, salad instead of an appetizer.

v Order 2 appetizers or half portions instead of full meals.

v Order as many vegetables as you can to fill up on fibrous nutritious calories. Try as much as possible to make ½ your plate full of non-starchy vegetables.

v Share options. Everyone can grab a spoon and have a bite of dessert.

v Question how foods are prepared. Don’t hesitate even if the menu says something is fried instead of baked. Waiters are more than happy to help you make healthy changes if you ask nicely!

v Look our for high fat cues including “alfredo, au gratin, basted, battered, bĂ©arnaise, benedict, breaded, buttery, casserole, country-style, creamy, crunchy (unless pertaining to vegetables), cheesy, crispy, dijonaise, escalloped, fried or deep fried, hollandaise, loaded, pan-fried, pink sauces, smothered, white sauce.”

v Order child sized portions. Want ice cream daily on vacation? Get a kiddie cone.

What about more tips specific to BBQs, weddings and parties?

v Eat sensibly the rest of the day. Choose a light healthy breakfast, for example, to offset damage for the rest of the day. Don’t skip meals!

v Get a good workout in beforehand to offset the damage.

v Don’t go hungry. Eating a snack beforehand if it is for a meal time party of a meal if is just for snacks.

v Keep track of passed appetizers, limiting yourself to just a few and fill up on crudités instead.

v Limit high calorie alcoholic beverages. Choose wine, straight hard alcohols, mohitos, wine or vodka spritzers, Skinny Girl alcohol options. Separate drinks with club soda or water.

4) Make one meal a day your indulgence. Stick to your general plan with 2 out of 3 meals per day. For example, if dinner will be the big meal each day, go easy on breakfast (omelet, fresh fruit, yogurt) and lunch (salads, light sandwiches) and enjoy your dinner.

5) What about the cruise ship?

Cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts are buffets with endless food choices. Here are some additional tips specific to these types of vacations:

v Scan the buffet first before picking any food options.

v Fill at least ½ your plate with healthy non-starchy vegetables.

v Take small portions and only fill your plate once.

v Don’t eat what you don’t like.

v Pick healthy options for the multi-course dinners. Choose fruits and vegetable options for your appetizers to reduce calories.

v Remember a snack is not a 4 or 5th meal. Snack on healthy choices like fruit, vegetables, dry cereal, peanut butter, yogurt from the buffet line. It also helps to bring snacks from home for day trips.

v We don’t need to be eating all we can eat! Have one plate full per meal.

6) Remember you are on vacation! It’s OK to indulge a little on vacation. If you work hard to be healthy all the time, it’s nice to have dessert at dinner or that extra glass of wine. You are not going to break the bank with one special treat per day especially if you are physically active.

Happy Summer Everyone!! Enjoy your vacations and weekend get-aways!!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Every Sunday my entire family gathers at my grandmother’s house to swim, eat, and chat about the events of the previous week. Upon arriving, my first stop (after saying my hellos) is straight to the garden to see what has newly grown. A watched pot never boils. That is what it feels like waiting for the great fruits and vegetables of late summer. Little green tomatoes, baby green pepper, leaves of beets, and plenty of mini cucumbers are just waiting to erupt! So in this moment, it is important to focus on the superstars that have already bloomed: the wonderful fresh herbs! Namely (in our garden): basil, mint, and dill.

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Fresh herbs are superstars for a few reasons.

  1. They add flavor without adding sodium (salt) or calories. Almost all store-bought spice mixtures contain a significant amount of salt. Thus, when seasoning foods, it is better to rely on fresh herbs for flavor and add your own salt, controlling the amount yourself. Plus, if you’re eating under-flavored foods, it is easy to overindulge in condiments and sauces- that can be filled with extra calories and salt. Adding fresh herbs increases the flavor and decreases the need for those extra dips.
  2. They contain essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh herbs, such as mint and basil, contain vitamin A, vitamin C, and even some calcium and iron! The vitamins are anti (fighting) oxidants (damaging cells). Thus, they help our body’s cells fight off damage, creating a fresher and healthier you!
  3. They make everything fancy. Serving a fruit salad? Adding some fresh mint will jazz up your dish. Making a pitcher of fresh iced tea or even a summer cocktail? Adding fresh mint and/or basil will up the anti on your entertaining glamour. And once those beets start coming out of the ground, add dill and light vinaigrette to make your beet salad gourmet. Plus, we think it is cool (in a nerdy-nutrition way) to garnish foods with vitamins and minerals!


  • Make a pesto! Nothing tastes better than a pesto made with freshly picked basil- trust me! All you need to do is combine basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil in a food processor.
  • Add it to your tomato & mozzarella salad
  • Add it into your homemade salad dressing or
  • Use it to finish off a delicious pasta dish
  • Add it to a turkey sandwich in place of lettuce
  • Once those tomatoes turn red, basil will be in great demand for your homemade tomato sauce.


  • Add it into a pitcher of freshly brewed iced tea
  • Use it to garnish a fresh fruit platter. For a fancy dessert, place berries and fresh sorbet in a martini glass, adding agenerous amount of fresh mint leaves.
  • Make a fresh mojito, crushing lots of mint into a drink of soda water, sugar, and rum.
  • Make a watermelon salad with fresh mint goat cheese, and some watercress greens


  • Make a salad with beets, feta cheese, fresh dill, olive oil and vinegar.
  • Make a yogurt dip, especially delicious with grilled salmon. Combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh dill.
  • Add dill into a fresh green salad
  • Combine dill (and basil) into the ground meat of your freshly made burgers

Good News: these herbs are so easy to grow! Yes, even for you people who only have a driveway. And yes, even for those of you who only have a window indoors! All you need is a pot, soil, water, and sunshine. There are many websites that can show you how and even sell you starter kits, such as and

So head to your garden (or nearest Farmer’s Market!) and pick up these wonderfully flavorful, nutrient-rich, FRESH herbs!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Can I have my beans supersized?

My family and I were out to dinner the other night and we ordered pasta fagioli soup at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. One of our usual orders, we know the dish well. To our surprise, there was a new ingredient in the soup that night. “What are these supersized beans,” someone proclaimed. “Fava beans of course!” I explained.

Why have you done a good thing?

A wonderful spring legume, these pale floppy peas (not actually beans) are extremely nutrient dense, packed full of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber (9g of fiber per ½ cup). Fava beans are also extremely high in iron, giving you 30% of the daily value, making these beans wonderful for healthy red blood cells. Fava beans also contain L-dopa, which is the treatment for many neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease.

Switching out vegetarian sources of protein for meat or poultry has also been shown to be protective against chronic diseases, such as cancer. Fava beans have also been shown to help with weight loss and management when part of balanced diet and eaten in substitution for animal products periodically. Beans like fava beans due to their high vitamin and mineral and soluble fiber content, have been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and replacing sources of saturated fats in animal products.

How to eat fava beans…

Sometimes known as “broad beans,” you can find the freshest, most buttery fava beans shelled at the farmer’s market. However, it is time consuming to de-shell them on weeknights. So look out for canned varieties for more convenient cooking.

Wonderful to pair fava beans with other spring vegetables, like artichokes.

Try fava bean risotto

Looking for an alternative to traditional hummus? Try this great fava bean spread.

Other ideas:

-Add fava beans to your tomato sauce and pasta

-Throw fava beans in their shell on the grill until blistered for a few minutes with oil, salt and pepper

-Make a rice and fava bean side salad or vegetarian main course

-Let fava beans shine all on their own with just lemon juice, garlic and oil as a side dish

-Amy Santo, MS RD CDN