All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

The 5 Worst Diets for Weight Loss

by in Diets & Weight Loss, July 25, 2013

empty plate
Trying a weight loss plan that doesn’t work can become extremely frustrating and discouraging. Before starting any of these diets, read why I say skip ‘em!

#1: Paleo Diet
This plan recommends you eat like your caveman ancestors, emphasizing lots of fruits, veggies, lean meats and seafood. Dairy and grains aren’t allowed on the plan—omitting two important food groups and numerous important nutrients in your diet. This diet was ranked last by US News and World Report on their list of Best Weight Loss Diets. Their expert panel determined that there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that long-term weight loss can be achieved.

#2: Dukan Diet
Although celebs like Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Lopez have reportedly followed this diet post-baby to shed pounds, it was ranked second to last by US News and World Report’s Best Weight Loss Diets. This updated version of the Atkins diet eliminated carbs, fruits and veggies (especially during the very strict first phase), while allowing unlimited amounts of lean protein. It’s a very restrictive plan that will have you losing weight rather quickly—actually too quickly according to safety guidelines set up by the National Institutes of Health. The end result: You’ll probably end up regaining your lost weight plus more.

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5 Calcium-Packed Delicious Dishes

by in Healthy Recipes, July 24, 2013

macaroni and cheese
Are you getting enough calcium? Turn to diet first to get your recommended daily dose of (or as much calcium as possible) before popping a calcium supplement. Here are five recipes to help you do so.

The Recipes

#1: Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits
Yogurt is one of the highest sources of calcium around. Plus, the probiotics found in yogurt make it lactose-intolerant friendly.

Recommended daily amount of calcium: 34%

#2: Macaroni and 4 Cheeses (above)
There are so many sources of calcium in this cheesy recipe. Top contributors are cheddar cheese, milk, and Monterey Jack, with smaller contributions from the ricotta, enriched pasta, squash and Parmesan.

Recommended daily amount of calcium: 30%

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20+ Healthy Foods to Pack When You Travel

by in Dining Out, July 22, 2013

whole-grain crackers
Hitting the road this summer? Whether traveling by car or plane you can still make healthy choices.

By Car
By the time you turn the corner, everyone in the car is begging for food. The last thing you want to do is bring a never-ending supply of junk. Instead, pack a few good-for-you mess-free meals and snacks. To keep things fresh, bring a cooler (the traditional kind or one that plugs into the car).

Meals:

  • Whole-grain pasta salad or quinoa salad
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Hard-boiled egg and cheese in a whole-wheat pita

Snacks:

  • Sliced fresh fruit like melon and berries
  • Snack bar
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers

If you end up having to hit the quick mart anyway, look for the smarter choices:

  • Whole-grain pretzels
  • Hummus cups
  • Coffee or tea (nothing fancy)
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Small bowl of oatmeal

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15 Cocktails Under 250 Calories (Cheers!)

by in Healthy Recipes, July 19, 2013

mint julep
Kicking back with a few summer cocktails? Choose wisely or you’ll end up gulping way more calories than you think.

Calorie Overload
If you love the taste of sweet summer cocktails, you could be downing upwards of 500 calories apiece. Each standard shot (1½ fluid ounces) of 80-percent proof rum, vodka or gin has about 100 calories. Combine several of those with sugar-laden mixers–plus juices and soda–and you’re likely throwing back more calories and sugar than you bargained for, especially if you’re guzzling several drinks in one evening.

Always measure out the hard stuff. And forgo those overly sweetened bottled mixers; instead, choose 100% juice or use fresh fruits and herbs to flavor your drink. You can also choose to cut back on calories by using diet soda as a mixer–but be aware that studies have shown that you do get drunk quicker. Size also matters: Be sure you’re sipping from an 8-ounce glass (or smaller!).

Or sip one of the delicious drinks below.

Cocktails Under 250 Calories:

Cream Cheese: Is It Healthy?

by in Is It Healthy?, July 19, 2013

cream cheese

Does this soft, spreadable cheese have any place in a healthy eating plan? It may depend on which kind you choose.

Yes?
Cream cheese comes in numerous forms: brick, regular, whipped, light, fat-free and Neufchatel. You can also find regular, light and fat-free in flavors like scallion, vegetable, cinnamon-raisin, salmon and strawberry.

Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese have 100 calories, 9 grams of fat and 6 grams of saturated fat. So if you want to lighten things up, whipped or light varieties are the ways to go.

Whipped cream cheese incorporates air (from whipping) so it seems as if you’re eating more. Two tablespoons have 80 calories, 8 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat.

Light cream cheese has even fewer calories, with 2 tablespoons clocking in at 70 calories, 5 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat. (Fat-free has about half the calories of whipped or light.)

Neufchatel has one-third less fat than regular cream cheese with 80 calories, 6 grams of fat and 4 grams saturated in 2 tablespoons.

Beyond its traditional uses (with lox, in cheesecake), cream cheese can enhance the flavor of many healthy recipes. Use the whipped or low-fat variety to make cream cheese frosting, mashed potatoes, artichoke dip, alfredo sauce or even a cheese and fruit pizza. As always, the key is to keep portions under control.

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10 Great Ways to Use Up Fresh Basil

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, July 13, 2013

basil
Pick up a bunch (or two!) of this fragrant herb while it’s in season. And don’t worry about how you’ll manage to use it all—there are just so many delicious ways.

Pesto
Go the traditional route and whip up a mean pesto sauce. Use as a condiment or as a sauce for fish or pasta dishes.

Ina’s Pesto

Infused Oil
Infuse your favorite olive oil with basil. It only takes a few minutes!

Basil Oil

Appetizers
Having a few guests over? Whip up simple finger foods using fresh basil leaves.

Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Bruschetta
Black Pepper Basil Farmers Cheese Bruschetta
Tomato, Watermelon and Basil Skewers

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20 Kid-Friendly (and Healthy!) Summer Recipes

by in Healthy Recipes, Kid-Friendly, July 13, 2013

peach smoothie
Although it’s easy to give into kids’ pleas for the same old not-so-healthy foods, parents and caregivers should provide a variety of dishes that will help kids grow and develop. Happily, summer offers a great opportunity to break away from the same old chicken nugget and mac-and-cheese routine. The season’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables make for deliciously healthy dishes kids will love. Here’s a sampling.
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Veggie Burger: Is It Healthy?

by in Is It Healthy?, July 12, 2013

veggie burger
When ordering a veggie burger at a restaurant, are you really making the healthier choice? It depends. The ingredients vary so widely, it pays to take a close look at what those burgers are made of.

YES?
Many veggie burgers are made from vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like beans or lentils). These are good-for-you ingredients that provide fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Packaged veggie burgers (like Morning Star Farms or Boca) can also be a part of a healthy eating plan. They’re a quick and convenient way to enjoy a meatless meal and typically run from 70 to 130 calories per patty. Pair with a whole-grain bun and pile the fresh veggies high for a well-balanced meal.

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How to Reward Kids (The Healthy Way!)

by in Healthy Tips, July 11, 2013

gold star
My youngest goes gaga for store-bought donuts–but I steer clear of my temptation to reward her with sweets. Food should never be used as a reward (or punishment). Children need to appreciate food as a means of nourishment and enjoyment.

If you think rewarding kids with food isn’t a big deal, think again. It can lead to all types of unhealthy actions and behaviors:

Encourage unhealthy eats: Using sweets or non-nutritious foods as rewards sends the message that these types of foods are more valuable than other foods.

Empty calories: Foods served to your kids should contribute to their growth and development. But oftentimes foods used to reward kids aren’t carrots, watermelon and broccoli but fat- and sugar-laden processed foods.

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The Benefits of Berries

by in Healthy Tips, July 10, 2013

mixed berries
Fresh berries are now in season, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only are these babies unbelievably delicious, they’re also brimming with health benefits. Here’s the lowdown on four favorites: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

Strawberries
One cup of strawberries (about 8 berries) has 50 calories, 3 grams of fiber and more vitamin C than a medium orange. They’re also an excellent source of fiber, folate and potassium. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ranked strawberries third out of more than 1,000 antioxidant-rich foods. Strawberries also contain anthocyanins, which may help protect the nervous system and blood vessels.

Studies have shown that strawberries can help protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon and leukemia. Research has also found that strawberries help decrease inflammation and control type 2 diabetes. In addition, one study found that eating 8 strawberries a day for 8 weeks helped lower homocysteine levels, a leading risk factor for heart disease.

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