All Posts By Toby Amidor

Nutrition Expert at FoodNetwork.com

Herb of the Month: Basil

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, August 1, 2011
basil on pizza
Basil on pizza, one of the many ways to use this versitle herb.

In parts of Italy, men sport a sprig of basil on their lapel if they’re looking for love. Although an interesting fashion statement, we’ll enjoy basil as part of our healthy eats instead.

Basil Basics
The herb basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae) is part of the mint family. It seems to have originated in India about 4,000 years ago. The ancient Greeks called it the “King of Herbs.” The herb gained popularity in England in the 16th century and was brought to the Americas by English explorers.

Basil can be found in different shapes, sizes, and colors — there are over 60 varieties. The most common are large-leaf Italian sweet, purple opal, Thai, lemon, tiny-leaf and African blue. Sweet Italian (a.k.a. sweet Genovese) is probably the one most recognized. The bright green leaves are rounded, have a pungent flavor that’s a cross between licorice and cloves.

The main producer in the U.S. is California, but basil is also grown commercially in India, Israel, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Italy and Morocco.

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Which is Healthier: Fruit Cobbler vs. Fruit Pie

by in Healthy Tips, July 28, 2011
fruit cobbler and pie
Pie versus cobbler: who wins this food fight?

Summer is all about fruit-filled desserts. When faced with the choice of cobbler or pie, which would you choose? Read the pros and cons of each and YOU vote for the healthier winner.

Fruit Cobbler

Pros:
Cobblers are a combo of fruit filling topped with a crust made of biscuit dough, traditional pie crust or a pour-on batter. Typically, the topping is made from milk, sugar, and flour. It’s easier to control the ingredients in the crust-topping of a cobbler than it is with pie; if you don’t want your cobbler too sweet, you can choose to cut down on the sugar. You can also use less of the topping, since it doesn’t have to cover the entire top of the cobbler.

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Supplement Savvy: Minerals

by in Healthy Tips, July 26, 2011

vitamins and minerals
We told you about popular vitamin supplements and now we’re covering minerals. Folks like to pop certain mineral pills when they can be easily obtained through food. Are these mineral supplements really worth the investment?

Be Advised
Many individuals mindlessly down vitamin and mineral supplements like candy. Many people don’t realize that supplements of any kind interact with various health conditions, medications, herbal supplements and even one another. Furthermore, taking megadoses (very large amounts) on a regular basis can be toxic to your body. That’s why it’s important to consult a physician or registered dietitian before choosing your supplement regimen.
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In Season: Eggplant

by in In Season, July 25, 2011
grilled eggplant Food Network Magazine’s Hoisin Eggplant.

Grilled eggplant is a summer favorite, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy this scrumptious delight. Check out these fun eggplant facts (did you know it’s a fruit?) and healthy, delicious recipes.

When, Where, & What?
Eggplants (Solanum melongena, Solanaceae) are part of the nightshade family along with peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. They were originally named after eggplants found in Europe that resembled an egg in shape and color. Eggplants only became acceptable to eat in the U.S. about 50 years ago; prior to that, folks believed that eating it caused insanity, leprosy and cancer.

Eggplants grow on vines, similar to tomatoes, and can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They can be white, purple, black or green and vary in length. Their shape can be spherical, curved, or long and narrow. The most common eggplants have a deep purple skin with a teardrop shape and are about 8 to 10 inches long.

Eggplants have a spongy flesh, meaty texture, and slightly bitter taste (the skin is especially bitter). Female eggplants contain more seeds and are more bitter, while male eggplants contain less seeds and have a slightly sweeter flavor. To determine the sex of an eggplant, check  the bottom: a female will have a deep indentation shaped like a dash while a male eggplant will have a shallow, round indentation.

The largest producers of eggplants in the U.S. include Florida, New Jersey and California. They’re also grown in Mexico, China, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and Japan. Popular varieties include Black Beauty, Rosa Bianca, Classic, Orient Express, Black Italian, Japanese, Lavender and Cloud 9. Eggplants are in peak season from July through October.

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Hot Topic: Clean Eating

by in Food News, July 20, 2011
woman eating tomato
How clean is your diet?

Clean Eating is a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately, only it’s not necessarily understood. We’ll explain what it is and if it’s advisable to eat this way.

What Is It?
Although you’ll find Clean Eating “diets”- it’s more of a way of living than a temporary weight loss solution. The term Clean Eating is relatively new, but it dates back to the 1960s when the natural health food movement looked down on diets filled with processed foods.

Author Terry Walters helped fuel the Clean Eating movement into mainstream America. According to the author of Clean Food and Clean Start, it’s all about consuming natural, unprocessed foods. Her philosophy is:

  • Eat a varied diet
  • Eat a rainbow of colors
  • Enjoy food and mealtime
  • Eat locally grown and seasonal food
  • Eat all 5 tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami)

This means eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables and lean proteins (a.k.a. real food) instead of fast food or highly processed, packaged foods, and giving new foods a try that you may not recognize at the farmers market— a lot like Dana’s Market Watch series.

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Okra 5 Ways

by in Uncategorized, July 16, 2011
smoky okra
Food Network Magazine's Smoky Okra on skewers.

Not sure how to prepare okra in a healthy way? Fried okra is a classic, but this green-hued veggie can also be prepared with few calories and fat added. Here are 5 mouthwatering recipes to get you started.

Pickled
Pickling is an easy way to preserve the summer goodness of produce. Prepare the pickling mixture and just sit back and relax—that’s all there is to it.
RECIPE: Pickled Okra

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In Season: Plums

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, July 12, 2011
plums
Plums in many colors.

Finally…plum season has arrived! This juicy stone fruit is only in season a short period of time. Be sure to enjoy it while it lasts.

What, Where, When
The plum (Prunus domestica, Rosaceae) belongs to the rose family with cherries, peaches, and apricots. There are hundreds of plum varieties grown throughout the world. Common varieties include French, Italian, Imperial, Greengage, Long John, Castelton, and Fellenburg.

Plums grow on trees in clusters, have smooth skin and a pit in the center. Plums can be oval or round in shape. The skin can be deep purple, red, green, blue, or multicolored. The flesh can be orange, red, purple, yellow, or white. Plums also vary in taste—some are sweet while others are tart. They’re available from July through October.

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Healthy Recipe Essentials: En Papillote

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, July 10, 2011
shrimp en pappillote
Emeril Lagasse's Shrimp en Papillote: A healthy meal in a packet.

If you’ve never tried cooking in foil or paper, trust me . . . it’s easy! En papillote is considered a healthy cooking method as it uses heat (not fat) to cook food, keeping calories in check. Here are simple steps to get you started:

En Papillote Basics
En papillote is French for “in parchment,” so the food is baked inside parchment paper or foil. The main food and accompanying ingredients (like herbs, vegetables, or sauce) are placed inside packets and either baked in the oven,  cooked in microwave, or even grilled. As the food bakes, steam is created which cooks the food. As the steam is released, it also causes the parchment paper to puff up into a dome shape. To serve the meal, all you need to do is slit open at the table to reveal the goodies inside.

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Mayo: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, July 8, 2011
mayonnaise in jar
Mayonnaise: friend or foe?

It’s the quintessential “bad” food laden with artery clogging saturated fat. For years, we’ve been told to “hold the mayo,” but is it really as bad as they say?

Nutrition Lowdown
There’s no doubt that mayo is brimming with fat. One cup contains 1440 calories, 160 grams fat, and 24 grams saturated fat. It is an excellent source of vitamins E and K, but  it also contains almost 50 percent of your daily recommended amount of sodium.

Compromising Fat and Flavor
Fatty foods like mayo have flavor and mouth-feel that many folks enjoy. Adding a cup of mayo to a dish will rack up the calories quickly. So what’s a mayo-lover to do?

Moderation is one direction to take. Instead of drowning tuna or pasta salad in boatloads of mayo, use 1 tablespoon per person. One tablespoon contains 103 calories, 12 grams fat, and 2 gram saturated fat. This keeps things much more reasonable.

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Which is Healthier: Burger vs. Hot Dog

by in Healthy Tips, July 5, 2011
hamburger hot dog
Burgers or dogs, which is the healthier picnic pick?

In this new series, we’re pitting some of your favorite foods against each other. We’re starting out with the hottest fight of the barbecue season: burger verses hot dog. Who’s the winner of this battle?

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