All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

Trend Alert: Foods with Moringa

by in Food News, Trends, December 4, 2016

Commonly seen as a supplement, moringa (botanical name: moringa oleifera) is now being added to foods. Find out where you can find these foods, and whether they’re worth the money.

About Moringa

Moringa is a plant native to the sub-Himalayan areas of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The plant can withstand both terrible drought and also mild frost, which means it can grow in a wide variety of areas throughout the world. You could consider it a “super plant” because it can withstand such harsh weather conditions.

The Nutrition

The entire plant, including the leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds and root, contains a plethora of nutrients, which is why moringa has become such a popular supplement.  The leaves, which can be eaten fresh or dried, contain minerals like calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron and copper. The plant also contains vitamin A, numerous B vitamins, and vitamins C, D and E, along with protein and healthy fat. The plant also provides numerous plant chemicals that help fight and prevent disease, such as flavonoids and saponins.

Although advocates claim that moringa can help conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, a 2012 review paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology determined that there isn’t enough scientific research and data to show how much moringa is safe to take and what the side effects of consuming it are. Read more

The New World of Lean Meats

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, December 3, 2016

If you’re trying to eat healthy and select lean proteins, facing the meat case may be overwhelming. You can now find more cuts of meat and poultry than ever before, and knowing how to cook them can get confusing. Here’s a low-down on how to make sense of the meat and poultry case.

Defining “Lean”
The 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans recommended choosing lean protein. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration food labeling criteria, to be labeled as “lean,” the cut of meat must be less than 10 percent fat by weight, or it must contain less than 10 grams of fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol and a maximum of 4.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams. “Extra lean” contains less than 5 grams of total fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams.

All of the following proteins are “complete,” meaning they provide all nine essential amino acids that your body needs. However, portion control is of upmost importance. Aim for 3- to 4-ounce portions and serve with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low or nonfat dairy for a well-balanced and varied diet. Read more

Host a Healthy Holiday Open House

by in Healthy Holidays, November 30, 2016

The holiday season has become so hectic and overscheduled that finding a night to throw a dinner party or cocktail soiree has become nearly impossible. One solution is hosting a laid-back holiday open house, which allows guests to come and go as they please after crossing some holiday shopping off their lists. These shindigs run for about four hours during a weekend afternoon, and the flexibility can help minimize holiday stress for the host and guests alike. Plus, typical open-house fare is cocktails and light bites, which means you won’t bust a pant button on your way out. Use these tips and recipes to help you host a tasty and healthy open house this holiday season. Cheers!

Keeping Things Light

Delicious and healthy can go hand in hand if you follow these tips.

Minimize fried goodies: There are many finger foods and apps to choose that don’t need to be fried.

Add color: Select recipes with seasonal fruits and veggies for gorgeous eye appeal. Fruits and veggies also tend to be light in calories.

Go for lean protein: Choose lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey to help keep foods healthier, or opt for fish like salmon or tuna (to boost Omega-3s) and shellfish like shrimp and crab.

Offer small plates: Eating off smaller-sized plates means less food (or at least more trips to the buffet table to get the same amount of food). Instead of 9-inch dinner plates, offer smaller sized dishes.

Use a jigger: To keep calories from alcohol under control and prevent guests from getting overserved, use a jigger to measure alcohol instead of “eyeballing it” when making cocktails.

Offer low- and no-calorie beverages: Serve unsweetened iced tea, hot tea and coffee, and sparkling water with a twist of fruit as low-cal options. Read more

8 Healthy Food Trends to Look For in 2017

by in Food News, Trends, November 13, 2016

This year’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo took place in Boston, where I got a firsthand view of the latest foods that you’ll be seeing at your local market. Here’s the inside scoop on eight of these trends.

Pea Protein
The hottest trend in protein comes from pea powder. Bob’s Red Mill sells Pea Protein Powder to add to smoothies, shakes and baked goods. It contains 21 grams of protein per serving and is gluten-free. Earth Balance has also released a Protein Peanut Blend, which is a combo of peanuts and pea protein. It provides 180 calories and 9 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving.

Healthier Vending Machines
PepsiCo showcased its new innovative vending machine at the conference. Hello Goodness (pictured above) is a temperature-controlled vending machine that offers healthier on-the-go snack foods like Smartfood Delight Popcorn, Sabra Ready-to-Eat Hummus Cups and Quaker Real Medley Bars. On the machine is a touchscreen that allows customers to find product nutrition info, food and beverage pairing suggestions, and an Apple Pay option. Several thousand of these machines have been placed in select health care, recreational, transportation, governmental, workplace and educational facilities.

FODMAP Foods
The FODMAP diet trend, though created for those with irritable bowel syndrome, has grown in mainstream popularity. Fody is a company that has created FODMAP-approved products, including marinara sauce, salsa and BBQ sauce. Read more

9 Recipes for Hot Toddy Season

by in Healthy Recipes, November 11, 2016

’Tis the season to cozy up with warm bevvies. But be careful: Many drinks are liquid calorie traps, as calories and sugar can get out of control. Enjoy these hot toddies for under 300 calories per serving.

Nonalcoholic

Mulled Cider (pictured above)
Mixing apple cider with cinnamon, allspice and cloves makes a delicious toddy that’s low in calories.

Ginger Spiced Hot Cocoa
There’s nothing better than a warming cup of hot cocoa on a cold day, especially with a touch of soothing ginger.

Orange Tea with Honey
Flavor your everyday tea with orange and lemon peels, which add a bright dose of cold-fighting vitamin C. Read more

Building a Better Nacho

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, Healthy Recipes, November 5, 2016

This Tex-Mex favorite can rack up the calories and fat rather quickly. Instead of ruining your healthy eating plan, use these tips to lighten up this popular appetizer.

Holy Nacho Calories!

Head to the Cheesecake Factory and order the Factory Nachos with Spicy Chicken and that’ll cost you 965 calories, 31 grams of saturated fat, 52 grams of carbs and 1,390 milligrams of sodium. At home, the numbers can be similar if you pile on chili, sour cream, guac and other calorie-laden toppers. Making your own allows you to control the ingredients and portions so you can enjoy the game while indulging in a lightened-up version.

The Base

With a plethora of chips hitting market shelves, you can now find better-for-you varieties that are made with whole grains and contain more fiber. Some chips to choose from include:

Remember, it’s still about portion size, so aim for 1 ounce (about 15 chips) per serving. Read more

Exploring The MIND Diet

by in Cookbooks, October 29, 2016

Diets come and go, but the MIND Diet has the potential to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in half and keep the brain more than seven years younger. The author of The MIND Diet, nutrition expert Maggie Moon, M.S., RDN, claims this approach to nutrition “is heart-healthy and a solid foundation for healthy eating for just about anyone.” So what exactly does the MIND Diet entail?

The Origin of MIND
The MIND Diet is a cross between the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. “MIND” stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet was developed by researchers at Rush University who created a nutrition plan shown to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than one-third. In this prospective study, 923 people between the ages of 58 and 98 were followed for four-and-a-half years while following the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet and the MIND Diet. Those who adhered to the MIND Diet the most reduced their risk for Alzheimer’s by 53 percent compared with those who did not adhere closely to the diet. Even those who partially adhered to the MIND Diet were still able to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 35 percent compared with those who did not follow the diet.

The Diet
The original diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University in Chicago, and her colleagues, who identified 10 “brain-healthy food groups” that were brimming with antioxidants, resveratrol and healthy fatty acids. These foods included berries, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, fish and beans. According to the researchers, strawberries and blueberries were shown to be the most-potent berries in terms of protecting against Alzheimer’s and preserving cognitive function. Read more

Q&A with Chef Virginia Willis, Author of Lighten Up, Y’all

by in Cookbooks, October 16, 2016

Think Southern food can’t be lightened up? Think again! I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Virginia Willis about her James Beard Award-winning cookbook Lighten Up, Y’all. She was kind enough to share her tips for lightening up traditional Southern foods like biscuits, as well as her recipe for Vegetable Corn Bread.

Can traditional Southern foods be lightened up and still taste good?
Virginia Willis: Yes and yes! First, and foremost, I want to say that all traditional Southern foods aren’t unhealthy. We’re a vegetable-based cuisine and have a 12-month growing season. And, yes, I admit we’re most famous for fried chicken, cornbread and overcooked vegetables. My answer to that is: When you have fried chicken, have really good fried chicken, hold out for the good stuff  — and take a walk afterwards. There are tons of great vegetable recipes, and whole-grain cornbread isn’t unhealthy. I suggest backing off on the fat and amping up the nutrition.

What are three of your top tips for lightening up Southern fare?
VW: 1) I have a squirt bottle of canola oil at the side of my cooktop. I know that three squirts are 1 teaspoon, and that helps me be accountable. Bacon fat, butter or canola oil, all oil is around 120 calories a tablespoon. I try to use heart-healthy oil for general cooking and only use more-indulgent oils when their flavor really makes a difference.
2) It doesn’t matter if it’s Southern food or Italian food or Mexican food — the real key is portion control.
3) Eat your vegetables! Make vegetables the main place on the plate, and the starch and protein the secondary piece. Read more

Lightened-Up Family Pizza Night

by in Cooking for Kids, Healthy Recipes, Kid-Friendly, October 12, 2016

Who says pizza can’t be a healthy meal? Although a store-bought slice of cheese clocks in at about 400 calories, you can make a healthy pizza-centric meal that is loaded with vegetables, dairy and whole grains. These easy tips can help you make to-die-for pizza — that your whole family will love — each week.

Choose a Night
Theme nights are fun, make planning meals easier and get kids excited to eat. Sample theme nights include Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday and Pizza Friday. If you schedule pizza night for Friday, it’s a way to help reduce food waste, as most anything, like leftovers or extra vegetables, can be a healthy pizza topper. Scheduling also gives you time to stock your fridge with pizza essentials such as dough and cheese, or whatever else you choose to be on your pizza. Once you choose the night, then you have a few more decisions on how you’re going to build the pizza. Have your kids chime in on how they would like to make it more of a family affair.

Dough
This is the perfect opportunity to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendations to make half your daily grains whole. You can make your own 100 percent whole-wheat pizza dough, purchase whole-grain pizza dough from your market or ask your local pizza maker for an order of whole-wheat dough. You can also whip up dough made from legumes, like chickpeas, or that’s gluten-free. Other out-of-the box dough options include whole-wheat naan bread, whole-wheat English muffins or whole-grain tortillas. Read more

Healthy Rosh Hashana Menu Planner

by in Healthy Holidays, September 25, 2016

The Jewish New Year is a two-day celebration where it’s customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. The evening feast includes delicious foods such as pomegranate to represent fruitfulness and a round challah to signify the cycle of the year. Here are several dishes you can make for a healthy, delicious holiday.

Planning Your Menu
With back-to-school in full swing and work commitments, it’s a busy time to prepare a holiday menu. Proper planning, however, can help you have a delicious holiday meal. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

• Select one or two healthy recipes and start preparing a few days in advance so you don’t get stuck in the kitchen pulling an all-nighter.
• Make a grocery list according to the flow of the market, which will help you save time when food shopping.
• If soup is on the menu, prepare it a few days in advance. If you prepare it a week or more in advance, store it in the freezer.
• Prep vegetables the night before. If you can recruit a few helpers to assist with the prep, that’s even better!
• If you still feel overwhelmed, ask each family attending to bring a dish. To ensure they bring a healthy dish, send them a preselected recipe (like one from the list below!). Read more

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