All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

Label Decoder: Diacetyl

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, March 9, 2012
popcorn
What's this movie night treat made with?

There’s no better snack for movie night at home than a bucket of buttery popcorn. But you may think twice about the microwave stuff after we tell you about and ingredient it contains, diacetyl, and the trouble it has caused.

What is it?
Diacetyl was first synthesized more than 80 years ago and can now be found in about 6,000 food products. It’s used as a preservative in unsalted butter to lengthen shelf life, but higher amounts are added to butter-flavored products like microwave popcorn, cooking oils and sprays and margarine.

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Get Your Plate in Shape: Breakfast

by in Healthy Recipes, March 8, 2012

myplateMarch is National Nutrition Month, and in honor of this official campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we’re giving you meal options that follow the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines. This week we’re hitting up 5 breakfast options.

The Guidelines
MyPlate is about giving you a visual of which foods should be on your plate at each meal. You want to build a healthy meal from the 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins and nonfat or low fat dairy. You don’t need to have all 5 groups on your plate at each meal, but you should focus on getting in as many as possible, especially fruits and veggies.

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Which is Healthier, Lasagna or Mac & Cheese?

by in Which is Healthier?, March 8, 2012
lasagna versus macaroni and cheese
Which is healthier?

Our next head-to-head battle is between two popular pasta entrées. We’re pitting cheesy layers of lasagna against gooey mac & cheese. Who’ll win this food fight?

Lasagna

Pros:
If your lasagna includes pasta, veggies, cheese and meat, you’ve got yourself a pretty balanced meal. Plus the tomato sauce is a great way to get in the antioxidant lycopene.

This dish is also easy to modify— pile on more veggies or eliminate the cheese to accomodate a dairy allergy. It’s also a very easy dish to cook and freeze in individual portions—a plus for those busy weeknights.

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7 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

by in Healthy Tips, March 7, 2012
weights
Boost your metabolism the healthy way.

Looking to rev up your metabolism? Say no to dangerous weight loss pills and wacky crash diets. Instead try any of these 7 safe ways instead.

Metabolism Facts
Between genetics, gender, and age we have limited control over how much we can boost our metabolism. Men in general have a higher metabolism than women due to their higher muscle mass. As we age (especially after the big 4-0), our metabolism slows down. There’s not much you can do about the hand you’re dealt, but a few healthy habits can help boost it up.

#1: Resistance Training
A regular weight training regimen can help increases your muscle mass, thereby boosting your metabolism. The key word is “regular”—meaning, hitting the weights once in a while won’t do the trick. Aim for three times per week.

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8 Surprising Sources of Sugar

by in Grocery Shopping, Healthy Tips, February 29, 2012
sugar
Is there sugar hiding in your groceries?

Move over salt, there’s a new bad guy in town: sugar. We know that sweet treats and heavily processed food tends to be laden with sugar, but you’ll be shocked to find out that these 8 common foods that contain more sugar than you think.

The Guidelines

The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (or 100 calories) while men shouldn’t consume more than 9 teaspoons (or 150 calories) each day. Americans blow these recommendations out of the water, consuming an average of 475 calories of added sugar each day! So take a good look at your pantry to see if you’re eating any of these hidden sources of sugar.

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Why We Love Tofu

by in Healthy Recipes, February 28, 2012
bbq tofu
Barbequed Tofu

If you’re looking to reduce your cholesterol or eat more plant foods, tofu is an excellent protein-packed option. Choosing the type of tofu can get a little confusing, but we’ve got you covered along with recipe ideas too.

Tofu 101
Also called soybean curd, tofu is made by curdling soy milk with a coagulant (such as calcium sulfate or nigari, which is found naturally in ocean water). It’s then pressed (similar to cheese) and the firmness depends on the amount of liquid that’s extracted.  Tofu has a bland, slightly nutty flavor that absorbs the flavors you combine it with.

There are 3 types of tofu available at the market: firm, soft, and silken. Firm tofu (also found as “extra firm”) holds up well in dishes where you want it to maintain its shape like on the grill or in a stir-fry. Soft tofu is appropriate for recipes where you blend the tofu like puddings, tofu scrambles or eggless egg salad. Silken tofu is made by a slightly different process where the end result is a custard-like product. It’s great in pureed dishes like smoothies and mousse.

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Wheatgrass: Is It Worth the Hype?

by in Is It Healthy?, February 22, 2012
wheatgrass
Have you tried wheatgrass? Should you?

Consumers are buying trendy products like acai, mangosteen and coconut water like crazy lately. But many folks forget to do their research to find out if they’re going to end up flushing their money down the toilet. Today we’re delving into wheatgrass to tell you if this trendy green plant is worth the buzz.

The History of Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass was made popular by Boston’s Ann Wigmore, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania. She believed that wheatgrass could cure disease from her interpretation of the Bible and from observing dogs and cats feeding off the plant when they became sick. In the early 1980s Wigmore was sued by the Massachusetts Attorney General over claims that her wheatgrass program could decrease or eliminate the need of insulin for diabetics. Although she later retracted the claim, in 1988 she was sued again for claiming that her “energy enzyme soup” cured AIDS. She was finally ordered to stop claiming that she was licensed to treat disease. In 1993, Wigmore died but her ideas on wheatgrass live on.

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Buffet Dos and Don’ts

by in Dining Out, February 20, 2012
all-you-can-eat buffet
Don't feel pressured to eat all you can at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Tired of rolling home after an all-you-can-eat buffet? Use our tips to keep your waistline in check when you visit a buffet or salad bar.

DON’T: Skip all your meals and arrive famished.
DO: Eat well-balanced small meals before hitting the buffet.
Studies show that when you skip meals, you tend to overeat at your next meal. It’s best to eat your regularly scheduled small, balanced meals and arrive hungry but not out-of-control famished.

DON’T: Pile your plate with the first food your eyes land on.
DO: Take a stroll around the buffet to examine all of your choices.
Oftentimes, we start by eating the first thing we see but realize later that the “good stuff” is hidden at the other end of the buffet. Take the time to check everything out before you make your decisions.

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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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