All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

Meet This Grain: Amaranth

by in Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipes, February 17, 2012
amaranth
Have you tried amaranth?

This under-appreciated grain is a perfect way to get in your whole grains, plus it’s gluten-free. Get tips on cooking it and creative recipes to try this tiny grain.

What is Amaranth?
Also called pigweed or Chinese spinach, amaranth was a staple crop of the Aztecs who used to make idols from amaranth, honey and human blood. This outraged Cortes who burned the amaranth fields and decreed that anyone growing the crop would be killed.

Amaranth was rediscovered centuries later and about 60 varieties are available today. Although amaranth is categorized as a grain, it’s really a seed (just like quinoa). The tiny seeds are about the size of sesame seeds and have a yellowish color. The seeds can be used whole or ground into flour. They have a sweet and nutty flavor and are a bit crunchy when cooked. The greens of the plant are also edible and have a sweet flavor.

Today China is the biggest producer of the grain, but it’s also cultivated in Mexico, Central America and some areas in the U.S.

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Should You Drink Bottled Water or Tap Water?

by in Food Safety, Healthy Tips, February 14, 2012
bottled water
Should you spring for bottled, or is tap just fine?

It’s the battle over water! Should you be dropping cash on bottled versions or is tap the way to go? We’re diving into this controversy and sprinkling you with all the facts.

Bottled
Pros:
There are different varieties of bottled water, depending on their source. Here is a rundown:

  • Mineral water comes from an underground source and contains a certain amount of minerals and trace element like copper, zinc, and arsenic.
  • Spring water is collected from a spring that flows naturally through the surface.
  • Municipal water comes from a public source that is usually treated before it’s bottled. You may see it labeled as “purified water.”

Having bottled water available when you’re on the go is convenient and less messy (many reusable bottles leak), but recent studies conducted will make any bottle-loving person a skeptic.

Cons:
According to a 2008 investigation conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a variety of contaminants were found in every tested brand of bottled water. Although tap water is typically tested annually, bottled water doesn’t have to meet the same testing standards and they don’t have to disclose results of any contaminant testing conducted. After conducting this research, the EWG concluded that the “purity of bottled water cannot be trusted…[and] consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified.”

Also, bottled water has a larger carbon footprint than tap water and doesn’t contain any of the added nutrients found in tap water (like fluoride)—though you can find bottled water that has been fortified with fluoride. the problem is, over-consumption of fluoridated water can lead to fluorosis which causes a brownish discoloration on the teeth. It also costs thousands of times more than tap water.

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Talking to the Experts: The Biggest Loser Dietitian Cheryl Forberg

by in Diets & Weight Loss, Healthy Tips, February 14, 2012
cheryl forberg
Dietitian Cheryl Forberg

The NBC hit show The Biggest Loser has helped contestants lose hundreds of pounds and motivate a country in dire need of weight loss. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, including many hours of nutrition and food counseling provided by registered dietitian Cheryl Forberg.

Q: What was your role as the dietitian on The Biggest Loser?

As a member of the medical expert team, I participated in a week of screening physicals each season to help select the cast. I met with each prospective cast member to discuss their eating patterns, food preferences, weight loss/weight gain history to help me create personally tailored eating plans for each of them.

Q: I understand that you have both a culinary and nutrition background. Could you tell us about that?

Yes, I am a chef first, nutritionist second. I attended a sixteen month program in San Francisco to attain my chef diploma (formerly California Culinary Academy currently a Cordon Bleu school). I won an apprenticeship in France upon graduation and studied in restaurants in Champagne, Alsace and the Loire Valley. I returned to San Francisco to open Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio restaurant and moonlighted as a private chef to clientele, most of whom had some sort of dietary restriction — low fat, low sugar, low calorie. At the time there were few chefs with nutritional education and few dietitians with culinary training. I taught myself to adapt my classic French training to meet the needs of my clients. After several years as a private chef, I decided to legitimize what I was doing and returned to school at UC Berkeley to attain my BS in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics and become a registered dietitian.

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Chocolate 5 Ways

by in 1 Food, 5 Ways, Valentine's Day, February 13, 2012
Celebrate Valentine's Day with chocolate treats morning, noon and night.

Just a touch of chocolate is all you need to remind that special someone how you feel. This Valentine’s Day, enjoy any of these scrumptious chocolate delights morning, noon or night.

Breakfast
Start Valentine’s Day with chocolate-filled French toast. Even your kid will be shocked you served chocolate for breakfast! With only 1 teaspoon of bittersweet chocolate chips per serving, a little goes a long way.

Recipe: Chocolate and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

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Talking to the Experts: The Fuelin’ Roadie Wendy Jo Peterson

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, February 9, 2012
wendy jo peterson
The Fuelin' Roadie: Wendy Jo Peterson

With the Grammy’s right around the corner we sought to answer questions like how do musicians keep their voice in tip-top shape, or what do musicians eat on the road? I had the pleasure of speaking with registered dietitian Wendy Jo Peterson, who provides nutrition counseling for musicians including the guys from Reckless Kelly who are up for a Grammy this year.

Q: What’s your role as a dietitian for musicians?
When working with musicians I take on the role of a nutrition coach, culinary expert and sports nutritionist. I work with musicians on the road but also music festivals, catering companies and event coordinators. Besides working with some of the guys from Reckless Kelly, I have also worked with musicians from last year’s Grammy-winning group, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses.

Q: You counsel your musicians to eat like athletes. Do musicians really burn that many calories? Does this philosophy apply to the entire band (i.e. drummer, guitarist)?  
Interestingly the current data is quite outdated in regards to calories burned by musicians, but I have measured calories burned with many of the artists I work with and yes, they burn like athletes. Whether they are banging drums, bouncing around with a fiddle, or doing a choreographed dance while singing they are all burning calories that require nutrition and sport performance considerations. In addition to calories they have major sweat losses on stage, and until they see the evidence they don’t quite get it. I employ similar principles with my athletes as I do with my musicians. The results are impressive!

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Cancer Prevention: Cruciferous Veggies

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, February 4, 2012
broccoli
Broccoli is loaded with cancer-fighting plant chemicals.

In honor of World Cancer Day, we’re focusing on cruciferous veggies—those from the cabbage family. Studies show that these vegetables have a special plant chemical that protects against cancer. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate them into your everyday eating plan.

The Power
Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kale, and Brussels sprouts. These superstar veggies are packed with so many nutrients it’s tough to keep count. They contain fiber, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, B6, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and omega-3 fats. What’s more, they also have plant chemicals known as glucosinolates that have been shown to help reduce the risk of various types of cancer.

A 2011 study in the International Journal of Urology found that the more veggies that were eaten from the cabbage family, the lower the risk was from prostate cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, studies also link the various components in cruciferous veggies to helping reduce the risk of colorectal, esophageal, stomach, mouth and pancreatic cancer.

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Whole-Grain Wrap Taste Test

by in Grocery Shopping, Taste Test, February 4, 2012

whole grain wraps
Wraps are a fun alternative to sandwiches. Curious to which are the healthiest and tastiest? Find out how 5 popular flour tortillas (a.k.a. wraps) fared in our taste test.

Seek and You’ll Find
After asking our Facebook fans their favorite brands, we sought out to add them to our taste test. However, finding popular brands was not as easy as we originally thought—and we learned that wraps are found in MANY locations throughout the market. When looking for wraps, check the deli counter, commercial bread aisle and the Mexican food aisle. If that doesn’t work, ask the store manager. At one supermarket, they stored some wraps next to the raw meat (that just screams food safety issue to me).

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Order This, Not That: Papa John’s

by in Dining Out, February 2, 2012
papa johns pizza
Are there any healthy options at this popular pizza chain?

I frequently see commercials for this pizza chain but often wonder if there’s really is anything I can order that won’t bust my waistline. We’ll give you the cheesy facts so you’ll be prepared on your next visit.

Nutrition Info
It can get kind of tricky when reading the nutrition information for Papa John’s. The calories listed for most items will give you the per-serving information. This means that their “Pizza for One,” which serves 4 has the calories listed for a quarter of the pie. The same goes for their sides like chicken wings and breadsticks. The calories listed are for a serving size of 2 wings—though 10 are served in each order. So be sure to take a few minutes to decipher their nutrition breakdown when you sift through their website.

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Sleep and Weight Loss

by in Healthy Tips, January 30, 2012
sleep
Is sleep tied to a healthy weight?

After giving birth to three kids in less than 5 years, I never had much time to sleep. Like most folks, I savor those nights when I can get 6 or 7 hours of shuteye. Now numerous studies tell us that getting our zzz’s also helps with our weight loss efforts.

The Studies
A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that folks trying to shed at least 10 pounds were more likely to achieve their goal if they slept between 6 to 8 hours a night and had lower stress levels.

A 2004 study by the Stanford School of Medicine found that the less you sleep, the more weight you’ll gain. They found that not getting enough sleep leads to higher levels of appetite-stimulating hormones and lower levels of the hormones that tell us when we’re full. Furthermore, lack of sleep was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI).

There are also numerous theories that find sleepless nights can lead to weight gain. One theory says that when you’re tired, you become less physically active during the day which can lead to weight gain. A second theory says that when you’re sleep deprived you don’t care as much to make conscious food choices—which can lead you off your healthy eating plan.

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In Your Kitchen: Counter-Top Safety

by in Food Safety, January 25, 2012
sponges
How clean are your kitchen counters?

The last place you want to get sick is your own kitchen. With poor food safety practices, your counter-top can be crawling with bacteria and viruses. Luckily, there are simple ways to prevent these bad boys from making trouble.

The Issues
It’s a basic fact that our current food supply is tainted with bacteria. Even though every egg or piece of chicken may not contain salmonella, we still need to handle food as if they do. We do many tasks on our counters from chopping veggies to cleaning raw chicken to preparing our kids’ bagged lunches. This gives the food bugs opportunities to hang out on our counter-tops. Cross-contamination and poor personal hygiene are two easy ways pathogens can get onto our counter-tops. A third way is allowing high risk foods (like raw chicken and cooked eggs) to sit on our counter-tops for a long period of time.

Here are some common examples of food safety faux pas:

  • Defrosting meat on your counter-top.
  • Not washing your hands after going to the restroom and preparing food.
  • Using the same cutting board and knife to prep raw foods like chicken and meat, then using the same area, board and knife to cut veggies for a salad.
  • Cleaning the counter-top with a wet sponge only.
  • Using the same kitchen towel to dry your hands, clean the counter-top, and then dry the dishes.
  • Someone with the flu or cold touching the counter-top where food is eaten or prepared.

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