Friday, October 26, 2012

Have a Healthy Halloween Party!

As the weekend approaches and Halloween quickly creeps forward, it brings with it fears of trans fats and excess calories from sugar. Yes, it can be very daunting to ward off the crazy amounts of candy, but really as adults, what’s our weakness? We don’t exactly get handed candy just for showing up at a house and yelling “Trick or treat!” However, we may have some trouble facing the foods and drinks at that great Halloween party tomorrow night! If you are truly concerned about the selection of foods at the party, why not bring something yourself...

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

We always say that the best way to eat healthy is to make your own food, and this candy-crazed holiday is no different. However, being the moderation-preaching nutritionists we are, we would never tell you to bring something too “dietitian-y”. As long as the foods are prepared from scratch, they will be healthier than their pre-packaged counterparts, often with less fat (specifically made without trans fat) and less sugar. Here are a few things that I would bring to the party… who’s going to invite me???

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
I know they sound a little lame, but I promise they are delicious and perfect to place on the bar for a nibble. Plus, it's super easy to make.

Simply cut the top off of a medium sized pumpkin and proceed to cut into quarters. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and place on a baking sheet; let dry out overnight or for a few hours. Coat with 2 tsp olive oil and some ground cinnamon and bake in the oven on 300 F for 10-20 minutes. Watch them closely to make sure they do not burn!

Pumpkin Bread:
Since you already cut up that pumpkin to get the seeds out, you might as well bake those pumpkin quarters in the oven on a baking sheet (open face down) for about an hour on 350 F, or until soft. Then simply peel and place in the blender, adding a little water as you go along to help it to blend together.

Now, find your favorite and easy pumpkin bread recipe, utilizing the fresh pumpkin, and substitute out half of the oil for pumpkin puree, making the bread a delicious and low-fat treat!

Homemade Candy:
If you are feeling very adventurous and want to make your own candy, I applaud you! Since peppermint patties are one of the least caloric candies (and because I love Giada De Laurentiis) I am loving Giada's recipe from The Food Network’s website:

With these 3 dishes, you will have something healthy to nibble on, a low-fat snack, and likely a lower-calorie candy than most at the party to satisfy that ever-present sweet tooth.  It's the perfect 3 course "meal" to keep you happy and satisfied all night long. Just be careful of the spooky drinks…

Happy Halloween!!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Amy and I were cooking up some delicious and healthy French Toast Sticks at the Farmer's Market a few weekends ago when we discovered a new fruit... 

As one of the vendors brought it over to for us to sample, I naturally asked what this small grape-looking fruit was. He told me to try it first and then he would tell me. Being a little adventurous, I popped the little guy in mouth and instantly I knew...a kiwi!! But so small? And bald? Since it truly was the sweetest kiwi (or Kiwi Berry to be more specific) I've ever had, I was motivated to do some research. 

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Unlike your typical hairy kiwi, this kiwi berry needs no peeling, just a quick wash and pop  in your mouth. Kiwi berries are not only scrumptious but they are also a nutritional powerhouse. High in powerful antioxidant with plenty of vitamin C, they are a great way to keep your immune system strong as the cold weather approaches. They are a perfect snack; high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, while low in calories and practically free of any fat or sodium. 

Get 'em while there hot...
These lovely little fruits are only in season briefly, from September to November. Look for them at your local farmer's markets or specialty grocery stores. A good snack-size portion is about 8-10 kiwi berries.

Try them sliced in your next salad, fruit salad, yogurt parfait, or oatmeal.

Or, cut them up and cook them down in a sauce pot with a little bit of water to form a compote. Use this as a topping for our fabulous and healthy Your Secret Ingredient French Toast Sticks...

French Toast Sticks

Serves 4-6

4-6 slices of whole grain or whole grain cinnamon raisin bread, sliced into 1.5” slices
1 whole egg
3 egg whites
1 cup skim or almond milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

1)   In a small bowl, add 1 tbsp of real maple syrup and 2 tbsp apple butter to the Greek yogurt. Set aside.
2)   In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg whites, vanilla, milk of your choice, and cinnamon. Dip each slice of bread in egg mixtures on both sides until moist.
3)   Heat a large skillet and spray with cooking spray. Cook each slice of French toast until lightly golden brown.

**Cut each slice into 2” wide slivers to make French toast sticks. Serve 4 sticks per adult and 2 sticks per child. Dip French toast sticks in sweetened Greek yogurt:

1 cup of low-fat Greek style yogurt
2 tbsp apple butter
1 tbsp real maple syrup

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lunchbox Learning: Bento Box Style!

I have developed a reputation for myself as a “snack luncher.” What does that mean? Many say I have“kid-like” lunches, with a little bit of this and little bit of that such as 1-2 oz low-fat cheese, hummus, crackers, veggies and fruit for example. Nothing wrong with a non-traditional lunch and can often be a refreshing change from salad and sandwiches! The best way to do this is with a bento-box. Passing my ideas along, here is my addition of Lunchbox Learning Bento-Box Style!

Why have you done a good thing?

I always run across the problem of balance in my clients’ meals. For kids, there are often a little too many carbs and not enough protein while adults often have the opposite problem. I always try to educate and encourage my clients of all ages to have well-proportioned meals that include every food group! Why? When you have a portion-controlled but balanced mid-day meal, your body is refueled and energized to help you get through the rest of the day. No matter what age you are, a healthy meal has been shown to improve concentration, athletic performance, mood, and productivity. Plus when you have a little bit of everything, yes even carbs, protein, and healthy fat, you feel full and satisfied, helping you to avoid excessive snacking and overeating at night.

So give these ideas a try and pack a lunch bento box style! Tip: always pack your lunch the night before. There is just no time in the morning. Try packing lunches as a family before or after dinner (yes, kids can help too!)

Bento box lunch ideas:

Step 1) Pick up bento box tupperware! Having the tools makes snack-like lunching much more convenient and easy. Much to my excitement the other day while walking through Whole Foods Market, I discovered they sell such wonderful creations: bento box plastic lunch containers! Here are some of the other great selections we found for bento-box tupperware from Walmart,  Pottery Barn, The Container Store, and Amazon.

Step 2) Get Packing! Try these great fun ideas as a spin on a traditional lunch.

  • Taco bar Everyone loves a little Mexican! Use soft whole-wheat taco shells for the base. Pack a couple pinches of low-fat cheese such as Monteray Jack, 2 tbsp of guacamole, 2 tbsp salsa (spicy or mild), shredded lettuce and tomato, and black beans or shredded chicken. Great hot or cold.  Add a side of sliced mango or papaya for dessert.

  • Yogurt bar – Bring the healthy yogurt bar to your lunchbox. With plain or flavored Greek yogurt, add sides of low-fat granola, Kashi Go Lean, Cheerios, or Puffins cereal. Add another container of slivered almonds or trail mix as well as seasonal sliced fruit or berries. Want your kids to eat plain Greek yogurt? Try mixing in a tbsp of their favorite jam with honey for sweetness. For another variety, try this bar with low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat ricotta cheese!

  • Anti-pasto box – Make your lunch Mediterranean. Pack a handful of pistachio nuts, 1 tbsp low-fat feta cheese with sliced cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes tossed with olive oil, oregano, and lemon juice. Add a whole-wheat pita (try Trader Joe’s mini pitas) with 1 tbsp of hummus. Optional: add a few slices of fresh turkey for a bigger meal.

  • Asian noodle box Make a cold noodle dish with lo-mein noodles, soba or udon noodles. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe. Try making other sauces such as peanut noodles! Add a side of shelled edamame beans and or sliced avocado. Finish it off with pineapple or sliced oranges for dessert.

  • Dip bar – Who doesn’t love to dip? Create a bento dip bar with low-fat chicken/tuna or egg salad and whole-wheat crackers or pretzels (such as Kashi TLC crackers), sliced carrots/celery/peppers, and sliced green apples for dipping. Vegetarian? Try adding various bean dips such as black bean dip and hummus. Try our low-fat chicken salad recipe:

1 ¼ cup of rotisserie chicken, boneless and skinless, pre-cooked and shredded
½ Gala or Fuji apple, finely chopped into ¼ inch pieces
½ cup blueberries
1 stock celery, finely chopped
Pinch of salt & pepper
2 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
1 ½ tbsp honey mustard

1)    In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and honey mustard.

2)   Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

 No time to make your own bento-box? Look what we found in the prepared section of Whole Foods Market:

Don’t be afraid to be a snack-luncher like me. Perfect for kids and you...

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN