All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at

Convenience, Not Cost, Causes Weight Gain

by in Food News, September 11, 2012

fast food
When I heard the results of this recent study, I wasn’t too surprised. For years, I’ve been privately counseling folks who fall both above and below the poverty line. I’ve seen the patterns and am glad there is now statistical data to prove it. Cost has always been blamed for poor eating habits, but it’s the middle class folks who are most obese. They’re spending their hard earned money on fast food and other convenience cuisine.

The Stats
Findings for the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found:

  • Thirty million (or 41%) of obese adults have an income at or above 250% of the poverty level and over 28 million (39%) of obese adults have incomes between 130%-350% of the poverty level while fifteen million adults (20%) of obese adults have an income below 130% of the poverty level.
  • For men, there was no significant difference between education level and the prevalence of obesity. For women, however, the prevalence of obesity increased as education level decreased.
  • Middle income folks eat at fast food joints most often while 80% of those with a low income cook at home at least 5 times a week.

Read more

Herb of the Month: Sage

by in In Season, September 9, 2012

If you thought all fresh herbs were past their prime by the fall, you’re be mistaken. Fresh sage is now in season!

Sage Basics
This green herb is native to the Mediterranean. Its name comes from the Latin word salvus, which means “safe” – a reference to the herb’s believed healing powers.

Common garden sage is grayish-green in color with narrow, oval leaves with a pebble-like surface. They have a pungent mint-like smell and taste. There are numerous varieties of the herb; some are for cooking with while others are ornamental. Varieties include Curly, Minima, Dwarf, Tricolor, Pineapple and White Edge. Pineapple sage has a strong pineapple smell while White Edge has a creamy color splashed on the green leaves.

Although fresh is only available during the late summer and fall, dried whole, crumbled or powdered sage is available all year round.

Read more

Talking with Fooducate Creator Hemi Weingarten

by in Grocery Shopping, September 6, 2012

fooducate app
Fooducate is an easy-to-use, free smartphone app that helps you make healthier food choices. To use it, scan a packaged item’s bar code or search for food items and you’ll see its letter grade (A to D) with an explanation of its nutritional benefits, or lack thereof. When I recently introduced this app to a table of women they couldn’t believe their favorite so-called “healthy” snack foods scored so low (they received a C- or D+). They now use it to help them make more healthful food choices. I had the opportunity to speak to Fooducate creator, Hemi Weingarten, to learn more about it.

Q: Fooducate is a fantastic app that’s easy to use at the market or at home. How did you come up with the idea?

A few years ago, when my children were still babies, we bought a glow-in-the-dark yogurt in the supermarket. I was curious as to the source of the bright pink color and read an ingredient list for the first time in my life. I was shocked to discover Red #40, a synthetic dye, with potential links to hyperactivity and cancer is being used in kiddie yogurt. In Europe it is banned and beet juice is used instead.

I started researching the modern food industry and discovered many other ingredients or processes for food manufacturing that seemed to make good business sense for companies, but were not in my family’s best interest. Fooducate started out as a blog to help myself and other parents be more cognizant of the food we buy for our families. When smartphones started to become popular, I put together a team and we built the mobile scanning app.

Read more

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

by in Food Safety, September 2, 2012

bananas in bowl
Do pesky fruit flies hover around your fresh produce? Find out how you can get them out of your kitchen.

Fruit Flies 101
Adult fruit flies (Drosiphila melanogaster) range in size from 1 to 2 millimeters, have red eyes and tan or brownish body. They like to lay their eggs on fruit that’s getting ready to be harvested; that’s how they make it into your home, though they can come in through open doors and windows. Once in your home, these small flies will hang out near rotting fruit, especially old bananas hanging out on your counter. These flies reproduce quickly—they can lay up to 500 eggs over the course of their 1-week lifespan.

Other common breeding grounds for these bugs include decaying meat, large spills of sugary soda or alcohol, sink drains, garbage disposals, empty bottles and cans, trash receptacles, wet mops and dirty rags.

Read more

Food Fight: Beer vs. Liquor

by in Healthy Tips, August 30, 2012

beer versus liquor
Labor Day is around the corner—should you grab an ice-cold beer or choose a spirits-filled cocktail? This battle is a tricky one…

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. For beer, a “drink” is defined as a 12-fluid ounce bottle. Moderate alcohol consumption (as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines) can help reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and lower the risk of gall stones.

The calories in a 12-fluid ounce bottle of regular beer vary from around 150 to 300. Lighter varieties usually run around 100 calories for 12-fluid ounces  and are widely available in bars, restaurants and retail markets.  However many bars offer pints (equivalent to 16-fluid ounces) with around 200 to 400 calories each.

If you’re looking for nutritional goodness, dark beer is the way to go. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that dark beers have more iron than both pale and non-alcoholic beer.

See the results of our light beer taste test.

Read more

New Study Reveals Fewer Calories in Almonds

by in Food News, August 30, 2012

Calling all almond lovers! A new study found that almonds have fewer calories than originally thought. We’ve got the inside scoop on this news.

The Study
A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that almonds have 20% fewer calories than originally thought. The results found that a one-ounce serving of almonds (about 23 nuts) has 129 calories as opposed to 160 that’s currently listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

Interestingly, it has nothing to do with the composition of the almond—rather, the way we metabolize it. Although it sounds nutty (pun intended), I had the pleasure to speak with Jenny Heap, MS, RD Manager, Healthy Professional Marketing for Almond Board of California to help decipher these findings.

Read more

Fruit Snacks: Are They Healthy?

by in Back to School, Is It Healthy?, August 28, 2012

fruit snacks
My three kids go gaga over fruit snacks—and they’re not the only ones. You can find them at the movies (in the kids snack pack), in birthday party goodie bags and in school snack or lunch bags. But are these chewy goodies good for our kiddos or just too good to be true?

Fruit snacks run around 80-90 calories per small pouch—which is a reasonable amount of calories for a kids’ snack. They’re free of fat, cholesterol and are very low in sodium. Many also provide vitamins A and C.

Read more

Taste Test: Juice Boxes

by in Back to School, Grocery Shopping, Taste Test, August 23, 2012

apple juice
With all the so-called “healthy” messages on juice boxes, it’s tough to decipher which is really the best choice for your little ones. We’ve tasted and anylized popular juices so you’ll be better informed on your next trip to the market.

Juicy Guidelines
Even if you’re giving your kids 100% juice, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:

  • 1 to 6 years: Limit juice to 4 to 6 fluid ounces per day
  • 7 to 18 years: Limit juice to 8 to 12 ounces per day

Remember, fruit juice shouldn’t be used as a substitute for whole fruit. There are no nutritional benefits of drinking juice over whole fruit. It’s important to stick to the AAP guidelines as too much juice in your kiddos’ diet can lead to obesity, poor nutrition and tooth decay.

When shopping for juice, not all boxes are created equal and not all markets are stocked with the same brands. You want to look for those that are made from 100% juice as opposed to mostly sugar + water. Size also matters—for kids 6 and under, opt for the smallest (4.23 fluid-ounce) box whenever possible.

Read more

10 Antioxidant-Rich Foods

by in Healthy Tips, August 21, 2012

When visiting your local farmers’ market, you’re not only picking up deliciously seasonal produce, you’re also bringing home a wide array of antioxidants that can help protect your body. Here are 10 foods that should be on your shopping list.

The Power of Antioxidants
Antioxidants can be found as vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals (special plant compounds). They help repair cell damage caused by free radicals, which can mess with your immune system. Some researchers also believe that free-radical damage may be involved in promoting chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

If you’re thinking about picking up an “antioxidant-rich” supplement—don’t be fooled. Each fruit and veggie has their own unique combination of various antioxidants—you won’t find any of these specialized combos isolated in a pill. Your best bet is to eat a variety of seasonal produce so you can reap all the benefits.

#1: Tomatoes
Tomatoes are brimming with the antioxidant lycopene which is more potent in cooked tomatoes. To get the most lycopene out of your fresh tomatoes, turn them into gazpacho, tomato sauce or jam.

Antixoidants: Vitamin A, vitamin C, lycopene

Recipe: Tomato-Fennel Salad

#2: Berries
Berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are overflowing with antioxidants called anthocyanins. We’ve got 30 ways to enjoy these gems.

Antioxidants: Vitamin C, anthocyanin, quercetin

Recipe: Red, White and Blue Fruit Cups

Read more

In Season: Honeydew

by in In Season, August 18, 2012
honeydew granita
Food Network Kitchens' Honeydew Granita

This green melon is my 5-year old’s hands-down favorite. I’ve never seen anyone so thrilled when a fruit’s in season—she devours fresh chunks at breakfast and bedtime snack. As a mom, I’m happy that she enjoys a food filled with good-for-you nutrients. Though as a food lover, I’m happy to report that there are many other ways to enjoy the heavenly taste of honeydew.

What, Where, & When?
Honeydew is part of the muskmelon family, along with cantaloupe and person melon. This family is also known as netted melon; their skin looks like its covered with a thick, rough netting. Honeydew is very aromatic, but if they’re picked too early they won’t become as sweet and flavorful.

The oval-shaped melon has a smooth, cream-colored rind and green-colored flesh that’s bursting with sweetness. You can also find gold and orange honeydew varieties, with flesh colors described by their name, though they’re not as easy to find. These melons range from 4 to 7 pounds in size.

This scrumptious melon is thought to have originated in Persia and was also prized years later by ancient Egyptians. Today honeydew is grown in Mexico, California, Arizona, and parts of the southwest and is most abundant from late summer through early fall.

Read more