Friday, November 19, 2010

Bountiful Bite: Squirrelly Situation

Burrowhampton, MA - This picturesque New England college down is being called the "unhealthiest town for squirrels" after a group of sophomores recovering from a post-midterm party, observed an inordinate number of fat, er, "borderline obese" squirrels outside the dorm.

It appears that the prevalence of park side fast-nut restaurants is contributing to the obesity problem. The acorns in these establishments are injected with salt water, which these hungry rodents digest faster than normal, causing them to eat more of it. The high salt content is being called "the Silent Squirrel Killer". As the numbers of obese squirrels rises, the number of their lithe, furry brothers able to climb large oak trees is rapidly declining.

Dr. McGregor, DVM, of the Center for Squirrel Disease Control (and formerly Peter Rabbit's nemesis), told the Bountiful Bite "Squirrel obesity is a serious threat and could cost our public health system millions of dollars as the boomer squirrels age."

Although the furry climbers' optimal diet includes plenty of fresh apple and mushrooms, the average squirrel today eats only one serving per week! Mothers are decrying cashew vending machines in local squirrel schools. They say these high-fat nuts have little nutritional value (where squirrels are concerned) and are a poor substitute for good, healthy, hand-picked acorns.

Is there hope on the horizon? Tom and Jerry's, Inc. has just announced a nationwide initiative to give free hamster wheels to the first hundred squirrel councils that apply. A combination of more exercise and better nutritional information could "crack the shell" on the nation's latest public health concern.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Haunt your kids with Veggies

This just in: American kids are getting fat. Alright, that's not going to come as a surprise to most of you.

But a new study gives me another reason to ope
n the discussion, moms and dads, about what your children eat for lunch, dinner and after-school snacks. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports that among children and adolescents, an average of 40% of their calories comes from eating what we call junk, i.e.- food items which carry little or no nutritional value per calorie.

True story: My great-aunt Estelle, a bohemian from Greenwich Village, was once a clever little child, who's mother boiled spinach until it turned grey and served it to her with no seasoning. Forced to eat everything on her plate before being allowed to leave the table, she sat for hours one day, staring at anything but the soggy grey lump left on her dinner plate. After several hours, Estelle's mother came back to find her child's plate scraped clean, and no spinach in the girl's lap.

End of story? Nope. Two weeks later a wad of old spinach fell from the ceiling! Hooray for Estelle, I wouldn't have touched it either.

Don't make vegetables the villain!

Did your parents say things like "You can't have any cookies until you finish your lima beans"? How did that make you feel about lima beans? Like they were the villain, right? ...obstructing the path to cookie eating. Cookies are sugary, but they are also fun. They have bright colors, hidden surprises like raisins and chocolate chips, and you can line them up, or cut them into shapes before baking.

Why can't vegetables be fun
, too? Have a choice of dips or sauces for the cooked vegetables, let children help make the salad, cut cucumber slices into star shapes. Try a little cheese sauce on the broccoli (made with 1% milk), a little cinnamon in the mashed sweet potatoes... and, gasp, a drop of honey.

By the way, what are YOU eating, Mom?
"When parents eat more fruits and vegetables, so do their children. When parents eat and give their children high fat snacks or soft drinks, children learn these eating patterns instead." says Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., a professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. The 5-year study she refers to, done in Missouri, advocates reaching for a banana for a snack, instead of potato chips. For yourself, as well.

Sometimes we unwittingly "haunt" our kids by making healthy food out to be a necessary evil, the "bitter pill" before the soda or cookie reward. Making veggies into childhood villains doesn't bode well for vegetable public relations! This time of year, many families make one vegetable... pumpkins, into scary jack-o-lanterns. But that's FUN, and anyway, a month later we make pumpkin pie.

Enjoy the Bountiful BITEs (Bwahahaaa!!) of October! And if you make a great pumpkin soup, please post your recipe in the comments.


One of the first questions parents have about vegetables is how many do their kids actually need to eat each day.

Following the food pyramid, some general recommendations include that:

  • 2- to 3-year-old children eat 1 cup of vegetables each day
  • 4- to 8-year-old children eat 1 1/2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 9- to 13-year-old girls eat 2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 14- to 18-year-old girls eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 9- to 13-year-old boys eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day
  • 14- to 18-year-old boys eat 3 cups of vegetables each day

posted from:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Bountiful Bite: Nugget Free Zone

I spent the last year in rural Vermont, where a blueberry bush will fight with you for its green or even pink berries, but as soon as they turn blue, the berry will fall into your hand with the gentlest touch. You are given the berry when it's just perfect for you to enjoy and digest. This, small farmers know in their bones. Wait, pick, eat, can and freeze.

Yet most American kids think "blueberry" is a pop-tart flavor. The connection between "farm" and "table" is not taught at home or in the supermarket, and rarely in school.

Let's get this straight. I'm not a dietitian. I'm not even a so-called "certified nutritionist". I love food and I hate for people to impede their lives or health with serious weight issues. I can't tell you what the most scientifically nutritious diets are, or even the safest ways to lose weight. But I read the experts, and ask a lot of questions about what we eat, where it comes from, and what it does for us (or to us). You could call it my obsession.

I do know that our bodies were designed to be lean, mean, metabolizing machines. From right after a child's 2nd birthday until old age, you can feed a healthy person a wide variety of minimally or non-processed foods, from milk to pear nectar, from steak to edamame, and his or her body will break down the food, glean all the energy and useful nutrients from it, and eliminate whatever it can't use. It's a very ingenious system! (Aside from food allergies.) But, from what doctors have told me, this amazing metabolic system we carry around in our guts (and liver, etc.) can, like indoor plumbing, become sluggish, clogged up, or cease to function well if you repeatedly spill junk down the drain. And there's plenty of "junk" out there masquerading as food.

Why is America so food-dysfunctional? We need to have an ongoing dialog with agribusiness, food processors, doctors and dietitians, politicians and school "lunch ladies", with chicken - and egg! - farmers and the FDA. I want to be part of a conversation about the ways we eat, the foods we prepare, and most of all, when we go home to our kids or our single lives, our large house in the mountains or our apartment in the city, when we look in the mirror or stroll down the cereal aisle in the supermarket... what are we thinking, hoping,or doing differently today?

How can we find the time, energy, motivation, and resources to make our daily eating habits more healthy, more family-friendly or social, and more rewarding?
And who's butt do we have to kick to lower our nation's diabetes numbers?

So yea, I don't have a magic diet to share. Just come try this new bruschetta I made, clear your head, play in the "chikkin-nugget free" zone.
Eat, drink and be healthy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

of Khans and Kiwis

The elegant petite kiwi fruit often lends it's green starburst slices to the top of catered fruit salads, but it's a nutritious and sweet addition to your meals, snacks or desserts at home, as well. The fuzzy kiwi fruit, not to be confused with the kiwi bird, originated in China around 700 years ago. A popular fruit of the Khan dynasty, it may have been served to the mighty ruler Genghis Khan. From there, it was introduced to New Zealand in 1906, and was renamed "Kiwi" when California growers began planting them in the early 1960's.

The Kiwi is a very intriguing little fruit. In the summer, each kiwi vine imbibes about 41 gallons of water a day. It's a naturally pest-resistant fruit, and contains an enzyme called Actinidin, so you can use it as a meat tenderizer.

Kiwi fruit is high in vitamin C, a good source of vitamin E, fiber, and potassium. It's fat free, virtually sodium free, and has no cholesterol.

Home chef's tips:

Kiwi's are picked and sent to market before they are fully ripe. When they are plump and fragrant, and slightly dent when you squeeze them, they're ripe. The fruit will be green inside, and sweet but slightly tart. Kiwi's are thin-skinned little buggers, and once ripe, do not like being stored with other fruit. The other fruit emits ethylene gas (weird, huh?) and causes kiwis to over-ripen. Once they get mushy, they become unpalatable, and should be thrown out. But a ripe kiwi is a joy to eat, and a stylish garnish.

Tenderizing meat with a kiwi:

Cut a kiwi in three or four slices and rub them over your steak or other meat. Let it stand for 20 minutes or more. If it's warm in your kitchen, let it stand, lightly covered, in the refrigerator. The enzyme begins to break down the proteins in the meat, just enough to tenderize it.


Kiwifruit Frozen Yogurt; Kiwi Fruit, Orange, and Avocado Salad, and more:

Ref -

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another unwanted picnic guest: Allergens

Spring has sprung, and sprouted, and blossomed, and it has me thinking about allergies. Actually, it's forced me to think about them, as I rub my watery eyes, and sneeze just walking out the door. I'm not alone; as many as 50 million Americans suffer some type of allergy.*

And I was wondering, how do YOU keep your kids from eating stuff they're allergic to?

As summer approaches, out come the grills, the picnics, the family reunions, and the outdoor food festivals. When choosing what to cook or bring, it's handy to be aware of the most common food allergies, especially amongst children. So here they are, the five leading childhood food allergies:

1. Cow's Milk and things made from cow's milk. It's the protein in the milk that trigger's the allergy.

2. Eggs. Common in babies and young children. About 80% of kids outgrow egg and milk allergies by age five. Egg and egg powders are found in all sorts of dishes, from cakes to some fried chicken recipes.

3. Seafood and shellfish (including shrimp, crab meat, clams, lobster and other crustaceans).

4. Peanuts and tree nuts.

5. Wheat. There are wheat allergies and then there's Celiac Disease. A parent of a kid with Celiac Disease has to be hyper aware of what their kid eats, because gluten (the trigger) lingers in other grains as well.

How do allergies happen? An allergic reaction occurs when a person's immune system over-reacts to a food or substance that is harmless to most people. Their immune system produces antibodies to that food or substance, which causes other cells to release chemicals into their bloodstream, including histamine. Histamines can produce moderate to life-threatening symptoms in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

An Allergy is different from a "food intolerance". Food intolerance is an adverse reaction that does not involve the immune system. Lactose intolerance is one (inability to digest the lactose in milk). When I was little I had an intolerance to MSG, the seasoning that some Asian restaurants still use. It gave me a tingling sensation in my jaw followed by a pounding headache. This is a common childhood food intolerance. MSG is present in many grocery items including some rice mixes, so be careful when introducing little kids to seemingly harmless dishes like flavored rice.

Have I ruined your picnic yet? I don't mean to. Usually there are lots of options at these gatherings. As the host you'd be kind to ask ahead, and place the offending dishes in a separate area or a cooler, just out of reach of tiny hands and mouths.

* References: "All About Allergies".

Aucland Allergy Clinic:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Are breakfast eaters really slimmer?

You've seen the commercials... healthy breakfast... start to a healthy day, yada yada... but what could be wrong with skipping the morning meal when trying to lose weight, right? A lot, as it turns out. says that: Studies showed that athletes who consumed breakfast performed better in competition; kids who ate breakfast were able to concentrate more in class; adults who ate breakfast were able to control weight better than those who did not eat breakfast.

Wait.... WEIGHT?

Yes, avoiding the morning meal may be dampening your best efforts to stay slim. Breakfast, a word meaning "break the fast", kick-starts your metabolism in the morning. Also, people who eat a high-fiber breakfast are less likely to load up on higher calories in the evening, when your metabolism naturally slows down.

I was at a hotel breakfast bar recently, watching two XXL teens load up on biscuits, gravy, eggs, sausage, and orange juice. Let's take a look at this typical nutrition breakdown for biscuits and sausage gravy. While having a decent amount of protein, the "price" in calories, fat, and sodium per gram of protein is exorbitant.

Serving Size 1 biscuit with gravy

Amount Per Serving
Calories 508
Calories from Fat 285
Total Fat 31.65g 49%
Saturated Fat 7.249g 36%
Sodium 1461mg 61%

Nutrition Values are based on USDA Nutrient Database SR18

So obviously, that meal is not the breakfast of champions. But you don't have to love organic 100% bran flakes to get a productive jump on the day, and your BMI. Look for cereals, muffins and breads, and even berries, that have at least 5% fiber per serving. Not all muffins are created equal, and FIBER is the key. (Read labels for sugar calories, it's not always obvious by the taste.) On the weekend, eggs or whole-grain pancakes with blueberries also count as excellent choices for healthy weight control.

Oh, and what's that syrup you're pouring over your pancakes? If it says "syrup" check the label...uh oh, there it is: HIGH FRUCTOSE corn syrup, a product that I'll go into later. Let's just say for now, it doesn't belong on a healthy eater's table. Applesauce makes a nice substitute for syrup on pancakes.

The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) of over 16-thousand teens and young adults* revealed that the people who nearly always skipped breakfast had 4.5 times the risk of obesity as the subjects who did eat breakfast regularly. I mean, that's a 16,000 member clue. I'm taking the hint.


* Mota, J., Fidalgo, F., Silva R., et al. Relationships Between Physical Activity, Obesity and Meal Frequency in Adolescents. Annals of Human Biology, 2008; 35(1): 1-10.