P.K. Newby – Zester Daily http://zesterdaily.com Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 Lift Heavy Holiday Meals With Tangy Squash Salad /holidays-wrecipe/lift-heavy-holiday-meals-with-tangy-squash-salad/ /holidays-wrecipe/lift-heavy-holiday-meals-with-tangy-squash-salad/#respond Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:00:20 +0000 /?p=76407 A butternut squash salad is a nutritious and satisfying alternative to heavy holiday plates. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

To balance indulgent eats with healthier choices during the holiday season, add this big salad for supper featuring roasted vegetables, cranberries and toasted walnuts topped with a zingy maple-dijon vinaigrette to your repertoire. Butternut squash is the seasonal darling that takes eaters from autumn through the winter in a variety of tasty ways, whether baked and stuffed or as the basis for succulent soups and stews.

Whatever dish you’re making, roasting is a great way to coax the flavor from Cucurbita, and the starting point for this recipe. The sweet cubes come together with onions, cranberries, walnuts and a zesty dressing to create a delectable array of flavors and colors.

This salad makes a fun side, though for me it’s often a stand-alone supper when served over a bed of hearty greens, a “big salad” suitable for the colder months of the year. It works beautifully with fresh cranberries instead of dried, too: Just roast alongside onions, perhaps with a bit of sugar, unless you want a punch of tartness. Perhaps try adding white or cranberry beans for a protein and energy boost, or top with crumbled goat or blue cheese for a sumptuous finish. Make it your own, and enjoy this meal all winter long.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

You can serve this salad as a side, but it also makes for a great stand-alone supper. Credit: Copyright 2016 PK Newby

You can serve this salad as a side, but it also makes for a great stand-alone supper. Credit: Copyright 2017 P.K. Newby

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side

Ingredients

8 cups butternut squash, cubed

1 cup walnuts, toasted

1 large onion, large chop (about 2 cups)

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely minced

1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, separated

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to season

1 cup dried cranberries

Chives, for garnish

4 cups greens (kale, arugula, mustard, etc.) (optional)

Vinaigrette

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons walnut oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 475 F. Toast walnuts in oven while it is heating, about 5 minutes, until deepened in color and fragrant. Meanwhile, cut squash in large cubes and give the onion a large chop. Mince rosemary.

Place squash on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Toss together the onions and rosemary with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil on a separate sheet. Place both in fully heated oven and toss the vegetables on the pan after 15 minutes, then continue cooking another 10 to 20 minutes until soft and browned in spots; the onions will take a shorter time. Remove both from oven and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard, maple syrup and olive oil, then slowly drizzle in walnut oil, whisking to thicken. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, taste, and adjust ingredients and seasonings as desired.

Mix squash together with the onion and rosemary mixture and spoon onto a platter. Scatter with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with chives. Serve on a bed of greens, if desired, and pass additional dressing around the table.

Serve warm or at room temperature. To view a cooking video of a similar recipe, click here.

]]>
/holidays-wrecipe/lift-heavy-holiday-meals-with-tangy-squash-salad/feed/ 0
Power Salads: 5 Ways To Transform Dinner /health/power-salads-5-ways-to-transform-dinner/ /health/power-salads-5-ways-to-transform-dinner/#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 09:00:16 +0000 /?p=73727 A spinach salad with strawberries, avocado and pine nuts is beautiful and delicious. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

A large plate bursting with colorful plants and topped with a zingy vinaigrette — a big salad — has been part of my regular dinner repertoire for years. Happily, this concept is finally getting the love it deserves as a result of today’s increased focus on plant-based diets. Forget the naked salads of the 1980s, cruelly deprived of dressing. Follow these five tips and get creative to make salad the star of tonight’s supper.

Build your base: Salad greens, your way

Begin building your salad base. Lettuces are low in calories, so you can pile them on; their fiber and water content will help you to feel full. Greens are also loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (health-promoting plant chemicals). Ditch iceberg, which lacks the bright flavors and myriad nutrients of other greens. There are so many fabulous lettuces out there — why not give some new ones a shot?

Romaine is a good starter, but there’s also spinach, arugula, mesclun, red leaf and beyond. Include cancer-fighting crucifers, too, like cabbage or kale, or fresh herbs. What’s in season? What works for you? Make it your own.

Top with veggies: Go for variety, color

Select whatever vegetables you like and make it your own: the more color and variety, the better. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

Select whatever vegetables you like and make it your own: The more color and variety, the better. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

You’ve got your salad base; now paint your palette with whatever veggies your heart desires. My salads feature whatever I have on hand: carrots, radishes, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, beets, sprouts, olives, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, onions — whatever. If you can find local veggies in season, your taste buds will thank you.

Personally, I’m obsessed with watermelon radishes and romanescu broccoli (aka, Roman cauliflower) — and don’t even get me started on sugar-sweet gold cherry tomatoes, which, come August, I pop into my mouth like candy. Variety and color are key: The more varied and brilliantly hued your veggies, the more nutrients you’re getting. (And, just for the record, while low-sugar veggies should appear most often on your salads, many big salads are wonderful with fresh fruits like citrus, pears, pomegranate and berries.)

Add protein power: Beans, pulses, legumes

It’s time to turn to the satiating power of protein. After all, you don’t want to finish your big salad still hungry and order a pizza. Most people jump to chicken, shrimp and steak to liven up their salads. As long as the meat doesn’t become the leading player, perhaps that’s what you’ll first choose to get a big salad into your dinner repertoire.

Yet soybeans (and their products, like tofu), lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans and the like are small packages with big nutrition. They include protein, as well as fiber, B vitamins, iron, calcium and potassium. They’re also low in calories and sodium — if you use canned, make sure to choose a no-salt brand — and are less pricey than animal protein.

Moreover, producing these plant foods is less taxing on our planet’s precious natural resources, and many enhance soil quality through nitrogen fixation. There’s a good reason it’s the International Year of Pulses, and most of us don’t eat the amount we should for optimal health.

Mix it up: Toss in whole grains

Mixed lettuces with quinoa, orange, walnuts, and chia seeds makes for a salad packed with vitamins and minerals. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

Mixed lettuces with quinoa, orange, walnuts and chia seeds makes for a salad packed with vitamins and minerals. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

Like pulses, whole grains are a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and fiber — and even some protein — and create a pleasing texture and toothsome bite to your salad. Brown rice is a favorite of mine, especially when included with black beans for a big salad with a Tex-Mex twist. There are many different grains — think barley, quinoa, farro, oats and amaranth — to add intrigue to your salad; experiment to learn what you prefer.

Tossing whole grains into a big dinner salad is also a terrific way to use up last night’s leftover rice or pasta, too. While whole grains aren’t a regular addition to my salads, which tend be loaded up with veggies, beans and greens, a handful can make a tasty difference — especially if I’m having a craving for toasty homemade rye croutons.

Bring on the fat: Salad dressing and toppings

It takes only a few minutes to whisk up your own healthy salad dressing to top your big salad -- use whatever vegetable oil and vinegar you prefer. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

It takes only a few minutes to whisk up your own healthy salad dressing to top your big salad — use whatever vegetable oil and vinegar you prefer. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

It makes me sad when I think about everyone out there still shunning salad dressing, or opting for low-fat varieties, often packed with sugar. Yes, full-fat salad dressing is energy-dense: The main ingredient is oil, which has more than double the calories compared with carbs or protein (about 9 calories per gram versus 4).

So if you need to lose weight, you’ll want to keep the calorie content of dressings in mind — and save sumptuous dressings like blue cheese  and green goddess for special occasions.

Even so, science has shown clearly that certain types of fats are particularly beneficial to health. Diets rich in monounsaturated fats, like olives and olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats, like nuts, seeds and their oils, are both associated with decreased risk heart disease, especially when these foods supplant refined carbohydrates (like white bread, rice or pasta).

Moreover, the fat molecules in salad dressing help your body absorb the valuable (fat-soluble) nutrients in your meal. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar is my go-to dressing, but whipping up a simple vinaigrette at home is a cinch — try my maple-Dijon recipe — and can feature any combination of oil and vinegar that pleases. And, if your salad calls for crunch, scattering on a few nuts or seeds can take your big salad over the top.

Dinner’s ready. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and enjoy. With the first luscious vegetables of the season popping up in local farmers markets, now is the perfect time to celebrate the power of plant-based diets, your way.

Main photo: A spinach salad with strawberries, avocado and pine nuts is beautiful and delicious. Credit: Copyright 2016 Dreamstime

]]>
/health/power-salads-5-ways-to-transform-dinner/feed/ 1
6 Steps For Sorting Food Fact From Nutrition Nonsense /cooking/health-cooking/6-steps-for-sorting-food-fact-from-nutrition-nonsense/ /cooking/health-cooking/6-steps-for-sorting-food-fact-from-nutrition-nonsense/#respond Tue, 07 Feb 2017 10:10:40 +0000 /?p=76913 The world of food and nutrition advice can feel daunting, but a few simple steps will sort science from anti-science to help you create a health-giving diet. Credit: Dreamstime.com

Are you confused about what to eat when it comes to health? Do you want to lose weight but don’t know where to look, or what to believe? Does it seem like nutritionists are always changing their minds? Most people answer “Yes!” to at least one of these questions. If you’re aiming to create a more nutritious diet (or still trying to shed those pesky holiday pounds) but aren’t sure what’s true and what isn’t, then it might be time to clean up your newsfeed. Here are six steps to help you sort food fact from nutrition nonsense and focus on what really matters when it comes to diet.

Don’t fall for click bait

We all know what click bait is, and individuals and organizations alike make money each time someone jumps to the source. Read the article title critically: If it uses superlatives and seems like it’s just trying to catch your eye, just say no. And catchy headlines — which newscasters and publishers love — that sound too good to be true are often little more than hyperbole designed to grab your attention. Save your time and move on.

Beware of anecdotes

There is nothing more captivating than an engaging story, especially if it’s about someone you know. That’s why anecdotes are so powerful. Yet the individual experiences of just one person, even your best friend, mother or colleague, may not reflect what science has shown in carefully conducted studies among hundreds or thousands of people. That doesn’t necessarily mean their latest status update or share isn’t instructive for you, too. But it might be best to get a little more information about its scientific basis, and safety, before changing your diet.

Inspect the information source

Your favorite website (or television show) may boast its “healthy” recipes, but how do you know for sure? Check the credentials of the writer and publisher before heading to the grocery store. Credit: Dreamstime.com

Your favorite website (or television show) may boast its “healthy” recipes, but how do you know for sure? Check the credentials of the writer and publisher before heading to the grocery store. Credit: Dreamstime.com

The information revolution is a wondrous thing, but the sheer volume of places providing diet advice makes it difficult to differentiate science from junk science. Whether you get your food news from social media, television, books, newspapers, podcasts or wherever, you’ll want to take a careful look at the source. Who runs the website (or digital network), and what is its purpose? Are miracle cures or instant results promised? Are there links or references to other scientific studies that support the claims? Is private information requested from you, and if so, for what purpose? And think twice about the publisher’s politics and ethics: A great many “information” sources in today’s times are little more than partisan platforms for anti-science zealotry.

Check the credentials

Valid news sources often employ science journalists, in which case you probably trust their veracity. Yet although nutrition is a biological science based in biochemistry, many of us rely on well-intentioned food bloggers, celebrity gurus, personal trainers and the like for nutrition guidance. What is their training? Do they possess a scientific credential or degree? If not, what qualifies them to give diet advice? And remember that medical doctors (MDs) are trained to treat disease, and many who have jumped on the nutrition bandwagon have little if any preparation. Others may be snake oil salesmen. In 2014, Dr. Oz was called out by fellow physicians as well as the U.S. Senate, on claims that he misled his viewers. While some physicians do have specific diet-disease knowledge within their specialty, you’re generally better off finding a highly qualified professional whose career and expertise are devoted to nutrition.

Get savvy about science

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to finding the right diet for you. Rely on science-based sources and expert consensus to guide your choices for optimal health and disease prevention. Credit: Dreamstime.com

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to finding the right diet for you. Rely on science-based sources and expert consensus to guide your choices for optimal health and disease prevention. Credit: Dreamstime.com

Most news stories, wherever they’re covered, are based on single-study sensationalism. While one study, if well conducted, is a better information source than one anecdote, a single experiment may yield nothing more than a promising hypothesis, perhaps even inconsistent with the bulk of extant knowledge. Savvy readers know that a critical step of science is replication. The findings of today’s study du jour may be fascinating, or even life-changing one day. But no singular study warrants a change in dinner plans until the experiment is repeated and results are consistent across many diverse settings and laboratories.

Seek expert consensus

By this point you may be surprised to find many fewer credible nutrition stories in your newsfeed, with far less contention. Indeed, the simple fact is that most people don’t realize that there is considerable consensus on how to eat to promote health, prevent disease and protect the planet: While all science evolves over time, the majority of experts today recommend consuming a plant-based diet bursting with vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts, whole grains and healthy oils and maintaining a healthy body weight. Advice like this seldom makes the news, however; it’s simply less exciting than today’s cutting-edge research or miracle diet flitting across your newsfeed. Yet it’s this evidence-based, expert advice from places like Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization that is based on many thousands of studies. And that’s exactly the kind of scientific consensus you’re looking for when creating a health-giving diet.

]]>
/cooking/health-cooking/6-steps-for-sorting-food-fact-from-nutrition-nonsense/feed/ 0
A Fancy, Guilt-free Finale: Pears Poached In Red Wine /general/76603/ /general/76603/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2016 10:00:17 +0000 /?p=76603 Poached pears are so elegant that they can be served as a holiday dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newb

The holidays wouldn’t feel complete without towering cookie platters and magnificent pastries, but crimson-hued poached pears boast all of the beauty and drama of the season without all those pesky calories.

I have a sweet tooth that goes into overdrive during the holidays, distracted by every decadent goodie tempting me at every turn. Like most, I sip, savor and indulge while heeding these 7 tips to help keep me healthy and avoid the dreaded New Year’s diet.

I’m always on the lookout to lighten things up here in my own kitchen, and red wine-poached pears are my holiday favorite. Imagine juicy pears bathing in a crimson sea of spices, filling your home with the comforting scent of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Blackberries add a tangy complement and can be poached alongside the pears or included raw if you prefer.

And poached pears are so versatile, too: serve as part of a cheese platter, with perhaps a dab of chèvre or Gorgonzola, or as an elegant dessert. They are lovely on their own, though standing a stately pear in a pool of dark chocolate or dolloping it with goat cheese cream takes it over the top. I’ll let you decide.

Red Wine Poached Pears and Blackberries

Blackberries add a tangy complement to poached pears. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Blackberries add a tangy complement to poached pears. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Pears may be made in one day in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings (individual small pears) or 12 (halved or quartered larger pears).

Ingredients

1 (750 mL) bottle red Zinfandel wine

2 cinnamon sticks

5 cloves

5 star anise

10 green cardamom pods

1 teaspoon pink peppercorns

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2/3 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

6 pears, ripe but firm (I enjoy juicy Comice)

18 blackberries

Mint sprigs, for garnish

Instructions

1. In a large pot, bring first 9 ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

2. Peel the pears to allow liquid to penetrate the fruit. Leave whole if desired, or cut in half (or quarters) and remove seeds. Place the pears into the poaching mixture and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and ripeness of the pears. Insert a sharp knife into pears to check if done; the pears should give but hold their shape. Add whole or halved blackberries and continue simmering an additional 2 minutes. Remove fruit with a slotted spoon and cool to room temperature.

3. Bring poaching liquid to a boil until it reduces to about 1 cup slightly thickened; strain out spices. Serve fruit in individual bowls, drizzled with a few tablespoons of the sauce and garnished with a sprig of mint.

]]>
/general/76603/feed/ 0
5 Farmers Markets Myths That Cloud The Truth /general/five-farmers-markets-myths/ /general/five-farmers-markets-myths/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 09:00:41 +0000 /?p=74885 Fresh mushrooms and herbs at Borough Market in London. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

I am a farmers market fiend.

The ability to “eat local” is glorious for a gastronome, and late summer abounds with gifts of heirloom tomatoes,  juicy melons and colorful squashes. Farmers markets boast the most succulent produce, hands down, and I discover some newfangled specimen each season. Giving your food dollars to local farmers nourishes businesses, and supporting regional agriculture preserves land and protects biodiversity. And it just feels good to commune with similar spirits in the commons about something as fundamental as food.

Yet amid baskets of blueberries lie mountains of misinformation: Farmers market fiction is as copious as the produce, folklore fueled by junk science. Below are five myths you’re better off ignoring so you can make the best choices for your health and our planet.

Eating local is the best thing you can do for the environment

Local produce, such as these berries, often have less distance to travel. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Local produce, such as these berries, often have less distance to travel. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Local goodies have fewer food miles, as they travel a shorter distance to your plate than food crossing the globe. But you can’t conclude automatically that your local apple has a smaller carbon footprint than the imported one at the store. Economies of scale matter, as does mode of transport; millions of apples arriving by ship often have fewer emissions per unit than thousands traversing by truck. Paramount is how food is produced: A seminal study estimates that production contributes 83% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to only 11 percent for transportation. In other words, what you eat is the biggest contributor to climate change, not where you shop. Since raising animals requires intensive inputs (like water, food, fuel and land) and many produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the best thing you can do to protect the planet is eat less meat.

Local vegetables and fruits are more nutritious

Summer brings a crop of tomatoes, all sizes and colors. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Summer brings a crop of tomatoes, all sizes and colors. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Although soil can impact nutritional composition (like selenium), and species genotype also plays a role, any given plant is what it is. All apples, for example, provide vitamin C, fiber, water and phytochemicals: How produce is picked, transported, stored and prepared impacts nutrient content more significantly than where it’s grown. For instance, a carrot picked at its peak, flash frozen on site, stored in your freezer, then steamed briefly for supper can have more beta-carotene than one plucked days later, transported by truck, and which has sat at the local market in the heat, brought home, and resided in your fridge until you ate it who knows when.

Local seafood is more sustainable

Most people don’t consume enough seafood for optimum health, but choosing fish is complex. Many local species have been overfished to the point of extinction, and those from nearby waterways may even be more contaminated with mercury or other toxins. How seafood is caught also makes a difference, as some methods lead to copious food waste discarded as bycatch.

For these reasons and others, farmed fish (aquaculture) can be the most environmentally sound option. There are myriad issues to consider when determining what seafood is most sustainable and nutritious; downloading a science-based app can help you make an informed choice.

Local food is safer

The life cycle chain from farm to fork is often shorter and more transparent within regional systems, which can aid in identifying sources of outbreaks. Yet there are no conclusive data that farmers markets are safer, and local systems can lack the quality control of larger outfits with tighter regulations. Wares sitting in hot temperatures are a bacterial breeding ground if improperly stored, too. Moreover, farmers markets are replete with raw products sold under the pretense of health — though the Food and Drug Administration reflects scientific consensus showing that unpasteurized foods carry a far greater risk of food-borne illness.

Farmers markets are cheaper

An array of cauliflowers are found at a farmers market. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

An array of cauliflowers are found at a farmers market. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

Although you can find terrific bargains, farmers market prices are generally comparable to or higher than other shopping spots — and the exorbitant price of organic local foods even makes me gasp. Meals made with high-quality ingredients are magnificent, and carry a matching price tag. Yet I and others who scour farmers markets like a kid in a candy shop are fortunate, as we have the time, money and opportunity to do so. Studies show that supermarkets and big box stores, in contrast, feed people with less expense and effort, critically important for those struggling to get supper on the table.

Local foods are increasingly available, making it easier than ever to support all the good things they represent. While not a panacea, local markets will doubtless play a delicious role in solving today’s complex food problems — and they already do in the developing world. If you’re not yet wandering through your vibrant farmers market, there’s no better time to titillate your senses with the season’s best. Grab your bag, ditch the myths, and take pleasure in food that tastes better than any other.

Main photo: Fresh mushrooms and herbs at Borough Market in London. Credit: Copyright 2016 P.K. Newby

]]>
/general/five-farmers-markets-myths/feed/ 1
Best New Year’s Diet Starts With Easy Kitchen Detox /health/best-new-years-diet-starts-with-easy-kitchen-detox/ /health/best-new-years-diet-starts-with-easy-kitchen-detox/#respond Thu, 28 Jan 2016 10:00:57 +0000 /?p=72029 Forget trendy cleanses; eating healthy is the best way to promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

Still looking for the perfect cleanse to start the year off right? Look no further.

Whether you’re following the brouhaha surrounding the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans or not, I’m betting you already know what the basics of a healthy diet (still) are: mounds of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean and sustainable proteins like beans, nuts and legumes. Healthy oils like olive, grapeseed, walnut and flax also play a role. If these foods are the stars of your plate, your year is off to a terrific start.

So what of the other things we chomp, such as cookies, chips, ice cream, candy, chocolate, soda and the like? And if you did overindulge during the holidays, what’s the remedy for restoring your health, and perhaps even losing a few pounds?

Exactly right. You need a cleanse.

Not that type of cleanse

A short-term diet or cleanse offers little in the long run to sustain weight loss and promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

A short-term diet or cleanse offers little in the long run to sustain weight loss and promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

No, I’m not talking about the kind of cleanse touted by too-skinny celebrities and junk-science food bloggers. There’s no evidence behind the vast majority of regimens floating around cyberspace. And guess what? Homo sapiens is a wondrous machine equipped with “detox” organs like the liver, kidneys and the gastrointestinal system, which work to clear your body of noxious substances you don’t need — including those found in food. That’s not to say that treating your body like a dump is a good idea; it’s not, and there’s no reason to make it work extra hard by feeding it junk. But human metabolism is magnificent at removing toxins from the body, while a short-term diet or cleanse offers little in the long run to sustain weight loss and promote health; some may even be harmful.

The cleanse I’m referring to doesn’t have a catchy name (sorry) and doesn’t require a blender (thankfully). And it’s not some weird juice with strange ingredients and a funky flavor (happily). Most important, there are plenty of studies to support that this type of cleanse will, if done correctly, improve your health and weight.

Now take a look around your kitchen pantry, counter, refrigerator and freezer. What do you see? If you’re staring at gallons of ice cream, boxes of cookies, bags of chips and cans of soda (not to mention sweetened yogurts and granola bars), the thing that would most benefit from a “cleanse” is not your body, but your abode. And, unlike your human form, your habitat needs you to do the cleaning. Simply speaking, no matter your dietary vices — and you know what makes you drool — they don’t belong in your house.

Behavioral research studies examining eating behavior (like this one, for example) show that you shouldn’t keep temptations close at hand, since that means — Duh! — you’re more likely to gobble them up. Science aside, common sense and adages like “out of sight, out of mind” tell you exactly the same thing.

Treats are often consumed in too-large portions that contribute substantial calories and few nutrients. They also tend to be loaded in sugar and refined carbohydrates (like white flour), and most of us eat more than is good for our health. Indeed, consuming foods with lots of added sugar (not the kinds found naturally in fruits) are related to a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes; the risk remains, even if you’re at a healthy body weight. That’s why the new Dietary Guidelines state that everyone should limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily intake.

Enjoy, in moderation

 The key is to keep goodies out of the house, rather than trying to keep temptation at bay. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

The key is to keep goodies out of the house, rather than trying to keep temptation at bay. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

Make no mistake: I love indulgences like gooey brownies and crunchy potato chips just as much as the next girl. I developed a keen sweet tooth growing up and it took many years to tame. The key was learning to keep goodies special, as if a guest were visiting, and never give them a permanent place on my grocery list or on my kitchen counter. Certainly more logical (and less painful) than rigging the cookie jar with a mousetrap.

I still think about savoring something sweet after everyday dinners, like many of us. But guess what? If there’s nothing around, I get over it. Or I suck it up: you simply cannot eat what’s not there. Excess-calories-I-don’t-need and overeating episode averted. Following most suppers today, I enjoy cut-up fruit or berries, and occasionally a small piece of chocolate. (And I save the outrageous desserts that I adore for special occasions only.) 

Once every few months or so I’ll take a trip to my local gelateria or pick up a pint of ice cream that my husband and I share over a couple of days’ time. If I’m craving salty snacks, I’ll buy a single serving bag or split a small sack with my husband. Do remember: ridding your house of temptation doesn’t imply you’ll never eat these scrumptious things, it simply means they aren’t commonly found in your freezer. Over time, you’ll find you have less of an appetite for sugar and salt as your taste buds adapt.

You can’t control many things in your environment, whether the workplace cafeteria, shopping mall food court or supermarket aisles. But you can control what you have in your house — as well as your car and your office. The spaces where you spend the most time should be filled with food that nourishes your body, not packed with nutritional landmines ready to explode at every turn. To clean up your diet, clean out your house.

It’s the only “cleanse” you need.

Main photo: Forget trendy cleanses; eating good foods is the best way to promote health. Credit: Copyright Dreamstime.com

]]>
/health/best-new-years-diet-starts-with-easy-kitchen-detox/feed/ 0
7 Tips For Healthy Holiday Noshing /cooking/7-tips-for-healthy-holiday-noshing/ /cooking/7-tips-for-healthy-holiday-noshing/#respond Mon, 21 Dec 2015 10:00:18 +0000 /?p=71609 Prepare festive fruits for your holiday table, such as wine poached pears with blackberries. Credit: Copyright 2015 P.K. Newby

There are so many people writing “Eat this!” and “Don’t eat that!” when it comes to the holiday season, it feels like a bit of a buzzkill. After all, food is at the heart of our best-loved holiday traditions and culture, whether baking cookies, shaking cocktails or hosting feasts for friends and family. I would never encourage you to deny these most simple and beautiful of life’s pleasures. I’m a nutrition scientist, not a nutrition Grinch.

Forget denial! Instead, follow these science-based strategies to help your body naturally consume less. Enjoy the season healthfully without making that tired resolution to lose those holiday pounds come the first of the year.

Select smaller plates and cups

Behavioral research conducted at Cornell University and elsewhere has found that selecting smaller plates and cups leads to less food and drink consumed. There’s simply not as much room on your plate for food, which helps manage portions. You can help yourself, and others, by setting your holiday table with smaller place settings. Choosing smaller plates is especially important in a buffet situation, which is a recipe for overindulgence given all of the tasty choices for the taking. This strategy is especially important when consuming calorie-laden foods like cheese and desserts. Another benefit of this tip is that going for smaller portions means you’re more likely to eat what’s on your plate, which means less food waste.

Swap water for wine (sometimes)

Choose water rather than an alcoholic or sugar-sweetened beverage at least once during your evening. Credit: Copyright 2015 P.K. Newby

Choose water rather than an alcoholic or sugar-sweetened beverage at least once during your evening. Credit: Copyright 2015 P.K. Newby

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy festive holiday libations as much as that overflowing platter of sumptuous sweets. Liquid calories contribute heavily to our daily energy intake. And, whether alcoholic or not, our bodies aren’t good at recognizing calories in liquid form, so we tend to just pack them on as extra. Why not swap water for wine (or nonalcoholic punch, or soda) now and again? Keeping hydrated is always a good idea, especially when there is a lot of drinking happening. Choosing water rather than an alcoholic or sugar-sweetened beverage at least once during your evening out means you’re consuming that many fewer calories. Extra-added bonus: you’re less likely to be “that person” at the office holiday party. (You’re welcome.)

Savor every delectable bite

If you’re taking smaller portions then you’ll definitely want to make sure you are enjoying every single bite. The advice to chew slowly and consume mindfully is never more important than during the holidays. There are so many good reasons to do so. First of all, it takes time for your brain to respond to satiety signals that tell you “Stop eating! I’m full!” We often don’t hear these signals, either because they are drowned out by our desire for more or because we are not giving our body the chance to react. Further, the holiday season in all its succulence is meant to be savored. Enjoy each moment, including the hedonic pleasures that eating evokes. In so doing, you’ll likely consume less food and have fewer stomachaches from over consumption.

Go for green

A beautiful beet salad can be healthy, as well as festive. Credit: Copyright 2015 P.K. Newby

A beautiful beet salad can be healthy, as well as festive. Credit: Copyright 2015 P.K. Newby

Holiday treats tend to be rich in calories. Baked brie, iced sugar cookies, boozy eggnog… Where was I? Yet nutrition scientists recommend that you fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits daily. We are lucky that the increased awareness of consuming plant-based foods for optimal health and weight means that restaurants and businesses are increasingly featuring veggies and fruits on their menus. I encourage you to do the same when you’re planning a meal at your own home. This tip may sound tired, but the dishes needn’t be. There are so many festive ways to prepare vegetables for your holiday table. Think: spinach salad with ruby-red pomegranates and crunchy toasted almonds; roasted butternut squash with crimson cranberries and caramelized onions; or herbaceous arugula with figs, pine nuts and a zesty vinaigrette. And why not feature fruit for dessert, like red wine-poached pears with blackberries? Don’t neglect these superfoods this holiday season.

Hara hachi bu at home

Holiday schedules quickly become packed with cheerful gatherings and epic nights on the town. But every night isn’t a party, and there are still times when you’re spending a quiet evening at home. Thinking about what you’re eating and drinking during those days are just as important as your noshing habits when you’re out. “Hara hachi bu” is an adage of the Okinawans, one of the longest-living populations in the world. It roughly means “eat to when you’re 80% full.” It’s outstanding advice for every day and any occasion, given research has shown that limiting calories throughout your life is related to longevity. But the recommendation is even more critical during this most wonderful time of the year. We all know what to expect when attending holiday parties: food, and lots of it. You’ll help balance your overall calorie intake if you can eat less and make healthier choices when at home.

Get out and play (often)

Get more activity into your holiday plans, such as ice skating. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Get more activity into your holiday plans, such as ice skating. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Weight gain is, ultimately, a simple equation: consuming more calories than you’re burning will lead to storage of energy in the form of body fat. Yet maintaining a fitness routine is a real challenge when there are more stresses on our schedules than ever. But the frustrating fact remains that we should actually increase our activity to compensate for the extra calories we’re consuming. I share your pain in the difficulty in making this happen, but I’d be remiss if the other side of energy balance — physical activity –wasn’t on my list. Hate running? Then how about walking to and from work or taking the stairs rather than the escalator when shopping at the mall? Perhaps ice-skating or a family football game? Jump rope? Hula hoop? Figure out what works for you –and stick to it. And if stuff gets in the way, don’t beat yourself up; just get back out there when you can.

Watch your weight (literally)

Weight gain occurs incrementally, and detecting small changes are best observed numerically. Monitoring your weight by stepping on a scale is the best way to tell whether your holiday feasting has gone awry. You might also consider measuring your overall body composition by calculating your body mass index, which is as important as measuring other physiological parameters such as blood pressure and blood lipids; all of these impact your risk of chronic disease. Weight gain around the waist is especially harmful because of its inflammatory effect, so keeping track of how your clothes are fitting throughout the season is also key. If you don’t own a scale, you might consider asking for one as a gift. Better yet, buy this present for yourself today.

 Main photo: Prepare festive fruits for your holiday table, such as wine poached pears with blackberries. Credit: Copyright 2015 P.K. Newby

]]>
/cooking/7-tips-for-healthy-holiday-noshing/feed/ 0
Celebrate Healthy Eating — All Year Long /agriculture/celebrating-sustainable-eating-year-long/ /agriculture/celebrating-sustainable-eating-year-long/#respond Mon, 27 Oct 2014 09:00:32 +0000 /?p=54195 pumpkins

The days following a holiday are always a bit of a downer. And all too often it’s just a matter of time before the importance of the occasion becomes a distant memory as we return to the status quo of living our everyday lives.

Wait, you didn’t know Friday, October 24, was a holiday?

OK, perhaps not a holiday exactly, but for food geeks like me it was a day where houses were filled with brightly colored fruit and vegetable balloons and salubrious meals were followed by delicious-but-still-nutritious desserts. Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to raise awareness about the story of food from farm to table and back to soil to encourage dietary changes that support health, community, and the environment.

Why what you eat matters

In my own world, though, October 24 is just another day to do what I always do: teach people about why what you eat matters, farm to fork. I first began making the connections between what I ate and how it affected our planet and its peoples almost 20 years ago, learning from a professor who had been teaching “nutrition ecology” for decades. Learning to think beyond myself when it came to food was an “Aha!” moment for me. It has had an indelible effect on everything I’ve ever done in my career as a nutrition scientist.

As you probably already know, nutrition is a science focused on how food impacts health and disease, which is in essence biochemistry and physiology. Fundamentally, nutrition is based in the biological sciences, hence rooted to an individual. The concept of “nutrition ecology” was first coined in the early 1980s and remains unfamiliar to most people (including most nutritionists, by the way, since thinking outside the body is not standard practice for them, either). In essence, nutrition ecology expands how we think about food beyond health, a paradigm that includes the impact of our food choices on the environment, economy and society as a whole.

In other words, when it comes to what you eat, it’s not just about you.

Of course, diet impacts your own health, weight and risk of disease: 80% of chronic diseases are essentially preventable through modifiable lifestyle factors such as diet, and better food choices will lead to a longer life filled with more active years. If you’re not yet paying close enough attention to your own well-being, now’s a great time to think about the kinds of changes you can make to improve your own health. Yet the spirit of Food Day truly becomes alive when we step outside ourselves and deeply consider why what we eat matters — apart from our own bodies. How food is grown and what resources are used to produce it, including feed, land, water, fuel, fertilizers and soil; who grows it, and how fairly she or he is treated and remunerated; how it gets to you and how much it costs; and how food is disposed and/or wasted — should you be lucky enough to live in a place where surplus exists — all matter.

Sound like a tall order to consider all of that next time you’re making a meal?

Sustainable eating

It’s true that the road to healthy and sustainable eating is rife with complexities. Yet if you’re not up for a semester-long course in farm to fork eating, like the kinds of classes I teach, the good news is that cutting back on animal foods like beef, pork, lamb, and poultry (especially processed products) and increasing your consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes will go a long way toward improving your health as well as the environment, due to the much smaller carbon- and water-footprint of plant-based diets. And that simple change, if enough people do it, can lead to many other large-scale positive effects elsewhere in the food system.

Sure, there’s a lot more you can do aside from consuming less meat, and Food Day is a terrific opportunity to educate yourself about critical food issues from farming to food waste, chemicals to climate change. And, as long as you ensure your sources are science-based, there are myriad places to help you put into practice the principles of nutrition ecology.

P.K. Newby

P.K. Newby

But Food Day is just one day, and now it’s over — and, if we’re being honest, most people probably didn’t even know about it, anyway. And that’s OK because, let’s face it, every day is food day, really. Not only do we need food to live, but food is an integral part of our cultural identity and, for many, a source of joy and connection to ourselves, others, and the planet we share. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, food is practically the whole story every time. Far more important than celebrating a day that quickly lapses into the past is to make your food choices matter in the present every time you shop, cook, eat and drink. With each bite, you have the opportunity to invest not only in your own health, but to cast a vote about the kind of world we want to live in, together.

I hope there will be a time when we don’t need a special day to remind us.

Main photo: The Copley Square farmers market in Boston. Credit: P.K. Newby

]]>
/agriculture/celebrating-sustainable-eating-year-long/feed/ 0