All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at

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.

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

10 Healthy Game-Day Snacks

by in Healthy Recipes, September 18, 2016

If you’re a sports fan, you are revving up for the fall season. This year, instead of busting a gut at your next hours-long game-day extravaganza, prepare some of these 10 healthy, mouthwatering snacks.

Chili Chips

Make a batch of Ellie Krieger’s Chili Chips and dip them in a tasty, homemade guac or mango salsa (pictured above).

Prosciutto-Wrapped Crudite

Add a little zing to your vegetables by wrapping them in thin slices of prosciutto.

Smoky Kale Chips

At 60 calories per two cups of chips, you can eat away without the guilt.

Pizza Pockets

For a more filling snack, wrap turkey sausage, arugula and cheese in store-bought pizza dough. To up your intake of whole grains, use whole-wheat dough.

Ham, Swiss and Apple Wraps

Half a wrap is a perfect snack made up of three food groups. Read more

The Sustainability of Alaska Seafood

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, Healthy Recipes, September 7, 2016

The 2015 dietary guidelines stress the importance of fish consumption, but there are still misconceptions swirling around about the seafood industry. What exactly is farm-to-table seafood, and is it sustainable? I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the Alaska seafood industry by taking a sponsored tour of the breathtaking state and even getting on a fishing boat to catch my own fish.

About Alaska
They say everything is bigger in Texas, but it’s even bigger in Alaska! The state commands 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline. To give you some perspective, the Atlantic Coast (from Maine to Florida) is about 2,000 miles, whereas the Alaska Coast is about 5,500 miles. But there’s just about one person per square mile actually living in Alaska. (If you applied this population density to Manhattan, you would have about 37 people living on the entire island.)
And because of its exceptional fishing waters, the state produces more than half the nation’s wild seafood harvest by volume.

The Seafood
Alaska is known for its salmon, whitefish varieties (like halibut, cod and rockfish) and shellfish. There are five species of Alaskan salmon: king, sockeye, coho, keta and pink. Peak salmon harvesting is from June to September. Peak harvesting for whitefish (like halibut and cod) varies but is mostly between March and October, while shellfish are harvested more in the fall and winter months. Read more

Order This, Not That: Panda Express

by in Dining Out, September 6, 2016

This Chinese food chain has been around since 1983, when it first opened in a mall in Glendale, California. Chinese fast food isn’t known for being healthy, and Panda Express is no exception. However, the next time you order Chinese fast food, keep these better-for-you choices in mind.

Read more

5 Snacking Pitfalls

by in Healthy Tips, Uncategorized, August 29, 2016

We’ve become a nation of snackers. Supermarket shelves are lined with snacking options, and many focus on the health-conscious consumer, providing snacks that are gluten-free, sugar-free, organic, vegan, kosher, dairy-free and/or GMO-free. However, you can overdo it even with the healthiest intentions. Here are five snacking mistakes that many folks make and what you can do to prevent them.

#1: Over-Grazing
Many folks tend to eat small snacks throughout the day, also known as grazing. If this habit is not kept under control, the few hundred calories you’re munching at each snack time can quickly add up and lead to weight gain over time.

Instead: Even if you’re a grazer, snacks and small meals should be scheduled throughout the day. This way you know when you’re eating, so you can have more control over what and how much you eat. Read more

Raw Cheese: Good or Bad?

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, August 27, 2016

Buying artisanal, local foods, including unpasteurized cheeses made from raw milk, is very popular at the moment. Some advocates even claim that raw cheese is healthier, but of course there are two sides to every story. Read on for the pros, cons and the verdict on eating raw cheese.

The Good
According to Carlos Yescas, program director at Oldways Cheese Coalition, “the benefits of eating raw milk cheese are many, amongst the most important are the diversity of the microorganisms that are present in these cheeses.” Although there are many questions that still remain due to the complexity of the human microbiome, these microbes found in raw milk cheese can help fight infection and disease.

Many folks, including myself, have food safety concerns when it comes to raw milk cheese. Yescas explains that in order to keep food safety under control it is important to source good milk. The raw cheese producers must pay attention to the quality of the milk, which included the living conditions of the animals, the nutrition of the dairy cows, and animal husbandry. “Because the processing of raw milk will not go through pasteurization (heat treatment) it is even more important to ensure that the conditions around the milking parlor are clean and safe,” says Yescas. Further, producers are mandated to constantly train their employees, as well as follow food safety guidelines (known as HACCP) that ensure that the points of contamination where pathogens can be introduced are carefully supervised. Read more

Healthy Hiking Snacks

by in Fitness, Healthy Tips, August 16, 2016

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). To celebrate, take a hike on your favorite trail, or go to the NPS website to find a park near you, and take one of these healthy snacks along to fuel your journey.

Before You Head Out
Once you select a trail, do some research — especially if you’re planning on a full-day hike. Call the campsite, or research online where you can access water near the trail. Longer hikes may require you to bring water purification tablets, in case you come across a stream or natural source of water, which may contain harmful bacteria or parasites.
For shorter hikes, a Swell bottle can help keep your beverage of choice cold. Read more

The New Wave of Nondairy Milks

by in Grocery Shopping, Trends, August 10, 2016
The fruits and flowers of a macadamia tree


New nondairy beverages beyond soy and almond are popping up on market shelves left and right. Here are some of the lesser-known varieties you’ll want to add to your repertoire.

One cup of original macadamia milk contains 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 1 grams of protein and 6 grams of sugar. The calories and nutrients vary between brands, so be sure to check the nutrition facts panel. Many brands fortify their macadamia milk in order to up the nutrition. Look for macadamia milk with added vitamins A, B-12 and D.

Where to buy: Suncoast Gold and Milkadamia make original and unsweetened varieties.

Made with oats, oat bran and salt, oat milk has a creamy texture and helps you get the daily recommended amount of whole grains (though without all the fiber). As with many other milk-alternative beverages, oat milk beverage isn’t a suitable substitute for the recommended daily servings of dairy. It does naturally contain calcium and iron, but do look for fortified versions that also contain other nutrients, like vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin A.

Where to buy: Pacific Foods and Living Harvest make organic plain and vanilla varieties. Read more