All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

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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Why We Love Cheese

by in Why We Love, January 20, 2012
cheese
We love this stuff.

From ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwiches to fancy shmancy cheese and crackers, there are so many ways to love cheese. Worried about your waistline? We’ll tell you how you can incorporate all types of cheeses in a healthy and enjoyable way.

Cheese 101
When I was growing up, my parents owned a cheese store on Chambers Street in New York City. There were so many cheeses, I couldn’t keep them straight but it was sure fun sneaking a taste every time I sliced a piece for a customer. Luckily I learned a thing or two while working for my parents about the various cheeses.

Cheese is categorized by their texture as unripened (or fresh) and ripened. Unripened cheeses are usually slightly tangy with a mild and creamy texture. They include cream cheese, mascarpone, mozzarella and ricotta.

Ripened cheeses can be categorized as soft, semi-soft, firm or hard. Soft cheese is characterized by thin skins and creamy centers.  Brie, camembert and boursin are three of the more popular varieties. Semi-soft cheeses include many mild flavored varieties that have a smooth and easily sliceable texture. They include fontina, gorgonzola, Havarti, Roquefort and stilton.

Firm cheeses are usually either similar to the consistency of cheddar or they’re dense and holey like emmenthaler. Some other popular firm varieties are manchego, jarlsberg, monetary jack and provolone. Hard cheeses are carefully aged for a long period of time and are less moist than the other cheeses. Varieties include asiago, parmesan and pecorino romano.

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In Season: Brussels Sprouts

by in In Season, January 19, 2012

brussels sprouts
Pick up a bunch of these little green beauties on your next trip to the market. Not sure how to cook them? We’ve got simple recipes to get you started, plus some fun facts for Brussels sprout connoisseurs.

What, Where & When?
Thought to have been cultivated in 16th century Belgium, Brussels sprouts are part of the cabbage family and actually look like mini heads of cabbage. Many rows of sprouts grow on a single two to three foot long stalk. The sprouts are usually ½ to 1 ½-inches in diameter. Smaller sprouts are more tender than larger ones.  They have a strong nutty or earthy flavor and can be slightly bitter. Their peak season is from late August through March.

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Healthy Diet Excuses and Solutions

by in Ask the Experts, Diets & Weight Loss, January 17, 2012
feet on scale
Do you need help keeping your new year's resolution?

If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, it’s time to prepare yourself. Once times get tough, the excuses start coming. We asked top nutrition experts from around the country some of the most popular or outlandish excuses they’ve heard over the years. Do any of them sound familiar?

Excuse #1: “I end up eating my kid’s sweet snacks.”
D. Milton Stokes, MPH RD CDN, a Connecticut-based dietitian in private practice says “This is truly outlandish because the child doesn’t have to have those snacks (not that the snacks are forbidden, but unhealthy snacks aren’t manditory), but the parent seems to be using the child as a vehicle for dietary sabotage.”

Solution: Be mindful of the snacks coming into your home. Choose sweet snacks sparingly or for special occasions.

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Top 10 Foods That Fill You Up

by in Healthy Tips, January 11, 2012
nuts
Nuts are a high-protein snack that will keep you feeling full.

Do you find yourself hungry 30 minutes after eating? Certain foods can help keep you satisfied so you avoid mindlessly munching throughout the day. Add these 10 filling foods to your daily repertoire.

#1: Oatmeal
A bowl of warming oatmeal can help jump-start a cold winter day and keep you satisfied, thanks to all that fiber.

Recipe: Apple Harvest Oatmeal

#2: Cottage Cheese
This underappreciated food has a perfect balance of fat, carbs and protein. You can count on the combo of protein and fat to help fill you up. Top ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit or granola or use cottage in dip, quick bread, or pancake recipes.

Recipe: Cottage Cheese Biscuits

#3: Nuts
Pistachios, pecans, almonds, walnuts, or cashews— nuts contain healthy unsaturated fat combined with protein to help keep you satisfied. With an average of 7 calories per nut, a small handful (about an ounce) makes a great snack.

Recipe: Almond Lover Trail Mix

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The Importance of Family Dinner

by in Food News, January 6, 2012


In my years of practice, I found that many families don’t eat dinner together – or any meal for that matter. A recent study released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University revealed what a big difference family meals make in your children’s lives.

About the Study
Family mealtime has drastically decreased since the 1950’s. Although you may not initially see the connection, family meals play a huge role in your kids’ lives. Yes, it’s important to eat together in order to sit down and catch up on the day, but there’s more to it. The study called The Importance of Family Dinners VI dug deep to see if there was a connection between the frequency of family meals and teen substance abuse. It also explored what teens thought about the concept of family dinners. The results will shock you.

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Spice of the Month: Cinnamon

by in Healthy Recipes, January 3, 2012


The ancient Egyptians used cinnamon to embalm the dead, while wealthy Romans used it in love potions and perfumes. Today, cinnamon is a popular spice that can jazz up both sweet and savory dishes.

Cinnamon Basics
Cinnamon is the inner bark of the tropical evergreen tree. The bark is peeled from the tree during the rainy season and once dried, it curls into long sticks which are either cut and sold as cinnamon sticks or ground into powder.

The two main varieties of cinnamon are Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and cassia (Cinnamomum cassia). Ceylon is considered “true cinnamon” and is pale in color with a mild, sweet flavor. Cassia cinnamon is also known as Chinese cassia or Indonesian cinnamon, and has a dark red-brown color. It has a more pungent flavor than Ceylon and is somewhat bittersweet.

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