Monday, June 30, 2008

Dinner with celeb chef David Bouley & nutrition guru Oz Garcia!

Last Thursday I had the culinary pleasure of dining with some of the food and health industry's most notable faces. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bouley Test Kitchen for a 9-course tasting dinner (thankfully they were small tastes!) hosted by renown chef David Bouley (shown at right) and nutrition guru Oz Garcia who are teaming up to open a restaurant in Anguilla at the Baccarat Hotel Resort that focuses on haute functional cuisine. So what's that fancy-schmancy word really mean? The nutritionally-sound food will incorporate ingredients that serve a healthful purpose but the dishes will still taste like you're in a 5-star restaurant. And I can absolutely attest to that. Though I wasn't able to stay for the entire evening, the tastings I did enjoy were amazing, quite the gastronomic and educational experience. Working closely with Garcia, Bouley focuses on aspects of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine, particularly the eating habits of people from Okinawa and Crete - these populations have the highest life expectancy and lowest incidence of chronic disease. His explanation of how he cooks and his own personal experiences with food was fascinating (hey, I'm a nerdy nutritionist, what do you want!?). From olive oil and flaxseed oil to miso and kombu, Bouley blends flavors like a magician.
Something that particularly caught my interest specifically was the focus on probiotics in his dishes--to promote healthy digestion, overall wellness, and even a bit a weight loss. Many of us have trouble digesting food well (whether you want to admit it or not)...and if you're prone to feeling the big bloat or like a flotation device, probiotics might not be a bad idea. You'll find probiotics (or 'healthy bacteria') in many foods like plain yogurt, miso, and kefir as well as in over-the-counter supplement forms -- BioK+ and Culturelle are 2 reputable brands I really like.
All in all, a great night that brings the concept of nutrition and fine dining to a new level, or rather on a clean plate. (dinner at Bouley's Test Kitchen)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The pulse: nutrition in the news

A number of newsworthy nutrition niblets have hit the media in the past few weeks. Here's a quick run-through of research studies and the latest and greatest nutrition info.

First, foremost and clearly my favorite...a new study shows that red wine may help protect against the proliferation of those pesky things called fat cells. Granted this is just one singular study, but bring on the bottle! (You know me and my affinity for a glass of vino). German researches found that reservatol, an antioxidant compound in red wine, may gaurd against the development of fat cells and may decrease the amount of fat-storage in cells in addition to other anti-obesity benefits. This study adds to the long list of red wine's praised health benefits--reduction of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes risk, lowering 'bad' LDL cholesterol, raising 'good' HDL cholesterol...the list goes on. Unfortunately, the news doesn't give license to go out and booze it up bottle after bottle, sorry to crush your unbridled excitement. Aim for just 1 to 2 glasses of wine per day to reap the health benefits. Take smaller, less frequent sips however if you're looking to curb excess calories and drop a few lbs or if you have certain medical conditions.

Another wine-related study from the University of California-San Diego finds that your fave glass of Cab-Sav or Pinot Grigio may also help stave off non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Not such terrible news for all you wine lovers out there.

Next up on the big surprise, expanding waistlines are seriously impacting the workplace. Recent CDC stats find that over two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight and that obesity is sucking employers dry--costing them $45 billion annually in health insurance coverage and other expenses. Weight aside, obesity skyrockets the risk of chronic disease and can impair work productivity and attendance. Tack on therapies, medications, and bariatric surgery to tackle obesity and you're looking at significantly heightened health care costs. Many companies are working with their employees to address weight and health concerns, stocking kitchens with healthful snacks, partnering with local gyms to offer discounted memberships and more. What do you all it the employer's responsibility to cover costs? How can companies create healthier workplaces to encourage good eating habits and lifestyle changes?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Urban farming

NYC just got a little greener. Yes, it may sound like an oxymoron, but urban farming is gaining some serious ground. Urban farming brings agriculture, plants and produce to major metropolitan cities both to encourage local food production and to educate the community about healthy living and eating. Urban farms are popping up in cities across the country so to check out this growing movement first-hand, I hopped on the subway yesterday and headed over to the PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City. Every summer, PS 1 works with young architects to create an urban oasis of sorts in the center's outdoor area. This summer, the forward-thinking architects from WORK Architecture designed PF 1 -- or Public Farm 1. So maybe I'm a bit biased (one of my closest and extremely talented friends headed up the project), but PF 1 is incredible and definitely a must-visit. With a graffati-covered brick building across the street and subway lines just down the block, PF 1 fits right in and fuses farm, function and form...with a few roosters roaming around and a kiddie pool to boot. Basil, beets, rhubarb, thyme and much more are blooming above ground, like a beautiful blanket of colorful plants and produce. I love that the farm exhibit is interactive and aims to involve and educate both kids and adults. How can you not get excited over a cardboard pillar with farm animal cut-outs that make farm-animal noises when touched?
The Council on the Environment of NYC is even partnering with PF 1 to establish a farmer's makret just beyond the center to sell produce and farm-fresh eggs to the local community. The blending of worlds here is very encouraging to see and makes this city-dweller wonder how we can do more to bring local farming and produce closer to home. What's something simple you can do you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Raising the bar...what's your favorite?

The comments and questions around energy and granola bars that I get from clients and friends never seem to cease. Nor do the mounting number of new-fangled bars that flood grocery store shelves week after week.
Bars come in handy because they're convenient and if you're lucky, fairly healthful, but that doesn't mean they're your go-to meal of choice (sorry, fresh fruits and vegetables aren't off the hook!). The right bar can be a great, satisfying and energizing snack or an occasional quick breakfast or lunch when you're traveling or seriously strapped for time.
So what you should ideally be looking for in the "perfect bar"...and hopefully this isn't as taxing as trying to find the "perfect mate".

  • Skip chocolate-coated bars -- they make encourage you to crave more sweets; when you're dying for real-deal chocolate, have a small amount and make it REALLY freakin good!
  • Check the nutrition label -- the calories in some heavy duty energy bars can rack up to a small meal rather than a light, nutrient-rich snack. Stick with bars that boast an average of 150-225 calories.
  • The fewer the ingredients the better -- keep it simple and look for bars with ingredients you actually recognize. I've found some of the most-satisfying bars only have 3 or 4 ingredients...and they're all-natural!

So what are my top 5 favorite granola/energy bars you ask? Drum roll....(these are listed in random order.

  1. Kashi TLC Bars - your basic, no-nonsense granola bar in flavors like Cherry Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Roasted Almond Crunch (140 calories, 5 grams fat, 7 grams protein)
  2. Larabar -- simple unsweetened fruit and nut ingredients keeping it real. I love the Ginger Snap, Pecan Pie and Coconut Cream Pie flavors. (220 calories, 14 grams fat *healthy fat from the nuts!, 5 grams protein) *Bonus, they're gluten-free.
  3. Clif Nectar -- another unsweetened (this one's organic) fruit and nut bar with some amazingly delicious chocolate/cacao flavors -- just the way I like it (no worries, they're not coated in chocolate). Cranberry, Apricot, Almond or Dark Chocolate Mocha flavors...among others. (150 calories, 5 grams fat, 3 grams protein) *Bonus, they're gluten-free.
  4. GNU Flavor & Fiber Bars - LOADED with fiber (12 grams - ie. half your day's worth!), this bar is crazy filling and will keep your digestive system feeling just fine. Banana Walnut, Orange Cranberry, Peanut Butter flavors and more. (130 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 12 grams dietary fiber!)
  5. Clif Bar - while they're made with 70% organic ingredients and have some added soy protein thrown into the mix, these bars are a bit more on the hefty side, read: more calories and a little more protein, but they can come in handy when traveling or a for more satisfying breakfast on-the-run. And the guys seem to really dig them. The one downfall I must point out, it's my professional duty -- the first ingredient is 'organic brown rice syrup' (ie. a natural sweetener -- even if it's organic, it's still a sweetener). Spiced Pumpkin Pie, Cranbery Apple Cherry, Peanut Toffee Buzz, Oatmeal Raisin Walnut to name just a few. (240 calories, 5 grams fat, 10 grams protein).

There's a number of other good bars out there (Weil Pure Fruit & Nut, Odwalla, KIND Bar, to name a few). You can even custom-build your own energy or granola bar that meet your dietary specifications and taste preferences -- check out Stick to basics and you can't go wrong. What's your favorite bar?

thanks for the sample T.H.!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Surviving summertime happy hours

Hey there! Just in time for beach-weather...check out my guest post yesterday on's Body By Glamour - Margarita Shapes Up blog.

Margarita Shapes Up
Surviving summertime happy hours
Hi, guys! I'm taking a get-my-life-together day off today (that's what personal days are for, right?!) and lucky for you, my nutritionist friend,
Marissa Lippert, a registered dietitian, is guest blogging. See you on Friday! xo

With summer heating up full-speed ahead, I figured what better time to guest blog about summertime cocktails and alcoholic drinks--the perfect topic for a nutritionist, right? Actually, it is! I'm a firm believer in the "everything in moderation" motto (even indulgences) and when the temperature starts rising, dewy glasses of refreshing white or rosé wine start dancing through my head. What screams summertime more than hanging out with friends and coworkers while sipping a frosty beverage? One beverage can easily multiply, however, posing a slight roadblock when you're trying to stay on track with healthy-weight goals. A few things I try to keep in mind: Take it slow and enjoy (rather than guzzle) what you're drinking; stay well-hydrated, particularly in hot weather, and have a glass of water or seltzer between drinks (this also serves as a sneaky tip to curb the amount of alcohol and excess calories you're knocking back); be smart about the type of cocktails and coolers you're choosing--3 or 4 light beers are equivalent to that 400-calorie frozen mango margarita that's loaded with excess sugar.
Here's my top 5 list of summer's 'heavy-hitter' drinks along with some sly-and-slim cocktail picks:
Frozen margarita - 300-500 calories (depending on brand and amount)
Daiquiri and pina colada - 449 calories
Long Island iced tea - 276 calories
Margarita on the rocks - 170 calories
Vodka tonic - 169 calories
Mojito and sangria - 149 calories
White or rose wine - 110 calories
Corona light with lime - 99 calories
Vodka and club soda - 97 calories
Wine spritzer - 40 calories (2 ounces of wine + 4 ounces seltzer)
*calorie amounts above are per serving
We all have one...what's your favorite calorie-smart summertime cocktail?

Wine: Jupiter Images

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The tumult around tomatoes

If you haven't already heard, tomatoes are the latest produce item to cause a nice little food-borne illness scare. Multiple outbreaks of salmonella have been reported in the past few days with tomatoes, specifically roma, plum and round red, being the primary suspect. The outbreak seems to be most prominent in areas of Texas and New Mexico along with 15 other states. Have no fear, your favorite summer fruit (yes, tomatoes are actually a fruit) to throw into salads or pair with basil and fresh mozzarella isn't a total wash. Grape, cherry and vine-ripened tomatoes are perfectly safe to continue eating. And to drive home the benefits of farm-to-plate eating even further, if you're lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes or purchase them from a local farmer/greenmarket, you can really rest-assured that your health's in the clear.

Lost and found...

I'm back! I took a slight blogging hiatus after returning from the West Coast to a whirlwind-week, but I'm up and running again. Napa was absolutely incredible, dare I admit I didn't want to leave?! Food and drink definitely met my Northern Californian expectations. My friends and I planned a day of wine tasting and vineyard-hopping over the weekend which was certainly the highlight of the trip. Wine tasting, what better way of putting a wine-loving nutritionist in her element? (as I've mentioned before, I'm a full-believer of everything in moderation!). Thanks to the genius planning and discerning tastebuds of my friend who lives in Napa, we tipped our tasting glasses at three off-the-beaten path vineyards, which is always my preferred method of traveling. Mumm, Honig and Regusci wineries were on the agenda (Regusci's vines and yours truly are pictured here). Gorgeous weather, great wine, good friends...can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Just a few fun nutrition facts around wine and champagne for your reading and drinking pleasure:
  • the antioxidant compounds in wine, reservatol and flavonoids, can help prevent against heart disease, high-blood and cancer. red wine contains higher levels of reservatol than white. wine has also been shown to lessen the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and according to a recent study reported in the NY Times yesterday, it may also protect against liver disease.
  • the key to remember is indeed moderation. to achieve wine's health benefits men should stick to 2 glasses or fewer per day, and females to 1 glass or less daily. anything above and beyond, you run a greater risk of turning the 'good-health tide' in the opposite direction.
  • a serving of wine is just 5 oz, that's less than half of a typical wine glass. you're likely over-served at most restaurants where the common pour tops off around 8 oz. that could be a welcome bonus for your wallet, but potentionally not for the scale.
  • to follow-up the above bullet point...thankfully the rumors you've heard about champagne are true. among wine varieties and cocktails, it trumps most in being the least caloric, love the bubbles. at 80-90 calories per serving, your skinny jeans can afford a few extra sips.

Whatever your wine of choice may be (in the heat of summer, I always fallback on a cold glass of rose`), imbibe and enjoy smartly and slowly...AND follow it up with a glass of water or seltzer. You knew that tip was coming. Cheers!