No Longer Living Among Pyramids


In a show of “who’s-who” among nutrition nerds, this morning registered dietitians, nutrition students and other public health professionals gathered around their respective computers to watch the live stream of the USDA’s announcement of the new food icon.

Since 1992 we have lived on the land of the Pyramid. The original black background Food Guide Pyramid was replaced in 2005 with the colorful, rainbow My Pyramid but neither was very clear consumers what is all means.
The “big reveal” this morning wasn’t so much a surprise, as a big relief. The new food icon for the U.S. is a plate! Something every single American can understand. No more pyramids or triangles with confusing lines, but an icon that a child can understand.

The “plate-method” is something that many of us dietitians have used and teaching for a while, years. Just ask my clients and student about my funny so, called circles I would draw to resemble a plate.

Here is the gist of the new food icon, now called ChooseMyPlate:

  • One-quarter of your “plate” or meal should be protein. This means lean beef or pork, chicken or turkey, fish or shellfish, or vegetarian alternatives such as beans, tofu or nuts. Fried? Rarely to never.
  • One-quarter of your meal should be whole grains or your starchy vegetable. This includes whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat rolls or bread, or even the baked potato.
  • One-half of your plate should be a variety of vegetables and fruit. It can be several fruits and vegetables or just two, but it should be half of your meal. Yes, really.
  • Also, on the side, choose a serving of low-fat or non-fat dairy – a glass of milk or some yogurt (with your fruit).

The cool thing about teaching this method to help people eat healthier is that is works for dining out too. I tell people all the time to visualize the plate when they eat out.

Here is how:

When you sit down to eat at a restaurant many times they bring you bread (or chips and salsa) – there is your “grain” or starch. Even if your grains aren’t “whole” every time, it should be most of the time.

Then you get your salad – a veggie.

Now to order your main course: you will get a lot of protein (it happens), usually enough for three or four servings, so take some home. I know most people won’t but it is what I suggest. So, what side do you order, thinking about the “plate” icon? Not the rice (it usually isn’t better) or the potato (remember the bread you already had). That’s right: the steamed vegetables.

So to get the dairy – order the cheesecake or crème brulee for dessert. But share.

Think about the ChooseMyPlate icon with each meal, and then make choices with that in mind. It will help you get your fruits and veggies that everyone needs more of.

While the new food icon isn’t perfect, most of us can truly understand a plate icon over a pyramid icon.

Now if we can actually have our food on plates instead of wrappers and push that plate away more often we would be better off.



Cheers for Beer


Do you know the benefits of beer?

Albuquerque Beer Week wraps up tomorrow. This wraps a week of festivities including dinners, tours, tasting events, and other things beer drinkers like to do (beer pong). Such fun; wait am I still in college?

While the health benefits of red wine is well-known and widely reported, most people aren’t aware of the benefits of beer.

A couple of months ago, the Winter 2011 edition of the “ADA Times” arrived in my mailbox. On the cover: several glasses of beef and “A Toast to Good Health” leading to the story about the health benefits of beer. My husband immediately thought the magazine was for him!

While I have known for years that beer and spirits have health benefits right along with wine, it turns out beer has a lot more going for it than just the alcohol and flavonoids.

Beer has fiber. I had no idea, but it does. While it isn’t going to prevent colon cancer necessarily, depending on the type of beer, 12 ounces can have up to 1.3 grams of fiber. So, you still need to eat your fruits and veggies.

Beer has B vitamins: a serving of beer, 12 ounces, has several of the B vitamins including folate, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and B12.

Beer has minerals: selenium (an antioxidant), potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and fluoride are found in beer too.

Depending on the type of beer, there is a good amount of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients.

While all the nutrients found in beer are certainly no substitute for real food or even a multi-vitamin, I am pointing out that there is more to beer than just stink and foam.

Always, remember the benefits of alcohol are only seen with moderate consumption. This means up to one 12-ounce beer for women and up to two 12-ounce beers for men.

Personal Story:

My husband and I were in Boston this past November (2010) for a vacation. On the day he planned, we were out in Jamaica Plain at Sam Adams Brewery at 10 am on a Wednesday. Ten of us were on the early morning, mid-week tour. We saw Jim Koch and the guys in the commercials who really do work there. “Sam” was our tour guide (whom I wondered if his name really was “Sam,” or if all the tour guides had the name “Sam” or “Adam” – I didn’t ask). The Sam Adams Brewery tour was our second brewery tour. Our first was the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO in 1995. Sam Adams Brewery in Boston can fit inside one room of the Coors Brewery.

At the end of the Sam Adams tour, we sat in the tasting room, got our souvenir glass, and went through 4-5 pitchers of Sam Adams. Between 10 of us. At 10:45 am on a Wednesday. That’s what a vacation is all about. Don’t worry, we took the subway out there, no driving for us.  We did get lost walking to Doyle’s Café for lunch, the first place to serve Sam Adams on tap.

Select information in this post obtained from the Winter 2011 ADA Times article, “A toast to good health: craft brew trend brings new attention to the benefits of beer” by Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD


Race for Ridiculousness: How High Can they Go?


It seems that fast food industry if competing for the most unhealthy item.

I admit that I eat fast food. Rarely, but I do. I don’t consider it off-limits to myself, my family or even my clients. I help them find healthy options when they go to these restaurants if they frequent them often.

I am not the food police and enjoy an ice cream cone, hamburger and even fries on occasion. I can count on my fingers (admittedly I probably need both hands) how many times I made a buy at a fast food restaurant in 2010. Most of the time, it was at the airport or on our way home from a camping trip.

Sadly, it seems that with every apparently “healthy” option introduced it absurdity overshadows it. It seems sometimes that the fast food industry is competing for the most over-the-top food – consequences be damned.

This week Burger King introduced their new “stuffed” burger. The same restaurant whose current promotion includes a two-for-one offering on their original chicken sandwich (630 calories, 39 grams of fat and 1,390 mg of sodium in each one) and you can have a side of 9-piece funnel cake sticks complete with icing (300 calories and 11 grams of fat, but a mere 210 mg of sodium). The stuffed burger is not yet on the nutrition facts menu on the Burger King website; however with cheese infused into the burger, a “creamy” sauce and the obligatory lettuce in tomato,  I just wonder how much more ridiculous the fast-food (aka fat food) industry can get.

Last year, to my dismay KFC introduced the “Double Down” with two pieces of fried chicken, bacon, and cheese (also available grilled with fewer calories and fat, but more sodium). As KFC’s website states: “no room for a bun.” Sadly, people have become so accustomed to these high calorie foods that when I tell people the Double Down is 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1,380 mg of sodium, the response: “that’s it?”

Pizza Hut has their “Big Eat Tiny Price Menu ®” where you can order a 9” Personal PANourmous Meat Lovers® Pizza – considered a single serving – for 1,470 calories, 80 gram of fat, and 3,670 mg of sodium. Or you can just order the stuffed crust pizza – wonderful how they add cheese to the inside of the crust – which didn’t even exist 30 years ago.

I could carry on about the ridiculousness of fast food high calorie creations from Carl’s Jr. to Taco Bell; McDonald’s to Sonic; and even Baskin Robbins. There are some lower calorie, lower fat alternatives at many of these places, but you would probably be surprised to find that, usually it isn’t the chicken sandwich or salad (at one time the Taco Salad at Taco Bell was  the “worst” thing on the menu).

I am not going to pick healthier options here. While one chain claims you “can have it your way” most of them will customize your sandwich or meal – for better or worse – when you ask. I suggest your educate yourself first on what you are eating.

1. Look up your favorite fast food chain’s website.

2. Find the Nutrition button/section and look up your favorite meal. (Several sites have a fun application to do this.)

3. After you “build” your meal, take a look at the total calories, fat and sodium in your usual sandwich or, even better, you meal.

4. Once you have your totals, think about the following:

  • Most adult’s need an average 2,000 calories per day (depending on gender, activity level and age).
  • Total fat recommendations ranges from 60 to 80 grams for the entire day (again depending on who you are).
  • Sodium recommendations are now 2,300 mg a day, but 1,500 mg is really what you should aim for

5. Think about what else you are going to eat that day. If you plan on eating nothing else, have another two meals or you had breakfast already, you need to adjust accordingly.

6. If you need to cut your calories or fat look around the nutrition facts a bit more. You can probably have something similar for fewer calories. (Ex. Ice cream cone and not a shake, burger without cheese, hold the mayo, etc.). In many cases you can cut 200-500 calories by changing your order slightly.

If your total meal is say, 900 calories, you have consumed nearly half your calories for the day. For some people it is more than half.

I meet many people who are “blissfully” unaware of how many calories they consume, especially at restaurants. All of the national fast food chains have their nutrition information on their website (sometimes a nice tab, other in the links at the bottom). If you can’t find them, ask!

Nutrition information was found on respective websites. No affiliation with any restaurant or chain, if you couldn’t tell…


Vacationing with a Dietitian

We did a different kind of marathon while visiting Boston!

From November 5-9, I was in Boston for the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo aka ADA FNCE (sounds like fence-e). For dietitians and aspiring dietitians (students) this is our annual gathering (or as Jill Jayne, the Rock Star Nutritionist calls it: our version of Christmas!). We get together to network, meet and greet old and new friends, get the latest in industry updates (that means food samples!) and of course have sessions to learn the latest research and tools of our profession. We also had Anthony Bourdain give us his colorful insights on “How to Stop Worrying & Enjoy Globalization.” I love his perspective on vegetarians!

When the conference ended on Tuesday and many of the 10,000 ADA members and guests left for their regular lives, my husband joined me for his first trip to New England. Being a diehard Steelers fan, this was especially difficult, but he managed. It turns out there are more Red Sox fans than Patriot fans anyway.

So how does a dietitian vacation? Visiting the usual sites, walking of course: Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail, and Boston Common. I HAD to visit the finish line of the Boston Marathon, since it is unlikely that I will ever be there on Patriot’s Day.

But this is how I plan a vacation: find the best restaurants in the town and eat at no restaurant that I can eat at home! Not what Frommer’s and Fodor’s tell me to check out, but where my dietitian friends tell me to go and where the locals tell me to go. So, here is where I ate in my 8 days in Boston last week:

  • Sel de la Terre (Long Warf) with large group of dietitians. Full menu, but lots of talking. The Grand Dessert for Two x 4 was just right for the 22 of us.
  • Tapeo – a tapas bar (not a topless bar) with eight dietitians. Ordered 2 pitchers of Sangria and I lost track of how many plates, but we were very satisfied. The Queso Con Miel is to die for.
  • Davios – an Italian place the night my husband arrived. Gnocchi is a favorite of mine, and they offer small orders if you don’t have a fridge in your hotel.
  • Doyle’s Café – it is really a pub…we toured the Sam Adams Brewery (beer for breakfast) and Doyle’s was the first place to serve Sam Adams when they started out, so there is an incentive to go after the brewery tour. We were here for lunch on a very cold, windy, and (dare I say) typical New England day in November. I was perfect and a great environment for New England Clam Chowdah (that’s chowder) and an Irish Coffee.
  • Legal Seafoods – it seems illegal to go to Boston without eating here, so we just had to. A crab cake meal includes scallops and shrimp too. This is not Red Lobster my New Mexico friends. Boston and seafood is essential!
  • Trident Booksellers & Café for breakfast – the apple brie omelette – OMG!! A perfect recommendation from local dietitian Janel Ovrut.
  • Barking Crab – wicked good lobster roll! Since we weren’t going to Maine, but were so close… Right on the piers and it IS open year round.
  • Mike’s Pastry – not for a meal, but for a treat! It is a pastry shop. We walked the Freedom Trail and were in the North End (Italian neighborhood). Who can pass up a cannoli here?
  • Eastern Standard – was located in our hotel, has great reviews, and we were so tired from all of our walking that we didn’t want to go any farther. The raw bar for more shrimp, the lobster gnocchi for dinner…

Even with all this great food, both of us lost weight during the vacation! Did I mention that we walked a lot?

Despite popular belief, most dietitian’s eat well, and live well. We enjoy our food, and many of us are FOODIES, people who “love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.”

Hungry for a Hot Dog?

The "superbowl" of competitive eating is July 4th.

As we celebrate the 4th of July this weekend, something big is going on Sunday: lots of hot dogs are being consumed, some competitively.

According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (who knew):

  • In 2009 consumers spent over $1.6 billion dollars on hot dogs and sausages in U.S. supermarkets.
  • L.A. residents consume more hot dogs than any other city, including New York and San Antonio/Corpus Christi, TX.
  • Hot dog season, considered Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans will consume 150 million hot dogs.
  • On Independence Day (this coming Sunday), Americans will consume 150 million hot dogs.

 Perhaps the most “famous” hot dogs are Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters, originally from Coney Island, Brooklyn. Nathan’s opened in 1916 in Coney Island and through the years has had infamous and famous customers from Al Capone to President (Franklin) Roosevelt to the King and Queen of England (1939). They were served in the Kennedy White House and at Walter Matthau’s funeral. These hot dogs are considered part of the American landscape, can be obtained in all 50 states and are truly “famous.”

Nathan’s is probably most known to those of us who live outside the New York and New England area for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest held each Independence Day. On Sunday, July 4th the event as old as Nathan’s itself is held. It is now more famous because it is televised on ESPN and considered a “sport.”

Competitive eating is considered “professional” with a governing body, sanctioned events, and sponsors.

For “fun” and thanks to Nathan’s publishing their Nutritional Info on-line, I have calculated the following information:

One of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs with a roll and no condiments are 297 calories, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 0.49 g trans-fat (making one 55% fat), 34 mg cholesterol, and 692 mg sodium.

I suggest that, if you are on the east coast, swinging through Coney Island, go ahead and have ONE. Watch out for the other offerings and toppings such as chili, cheese, and fries which contribute significantly to the calorie, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium content of your meal. I know Nathan’s are located throughout the city and other locations, but why ruin the experience? If you are going all that way, have one at the original in Coney Island.

Now for the scary part: in 2009, Joey Chestnut won Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Eating Contest for the third year in a row, and set a record, by eating 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. As you read this, I know what you are thinking: “reversal” or “a Roman incident” is automatic disqualification.

In ten minutes, Joey Chestnut consumed: 20,196 calories, 1,224 grams of fat, 476 grams of saturated fat, 33 grams of trans-fat, 2,312 mg of cholesterol, and 47,056 mg of sodium. I’m hoping that not only is the EMS on standby, but also the local ER.

According to Wikipedia, Chestnut is 6’, 218 pounds, and 26 years old. This puts him at overweight, but add a few pounds to 221 pounds and he is obese (by BMI alone).

So, I estimate that in 10 minutes he consumed:

  • 7 days worth of calories
  • 13 days worth of fat
  • 16 days worth of saturated fat (more than)
  • 30 days worth of trans-fat (we don’t want any)
  • 8 days worth of cholesterol
  • 21 days worth of sodium (based on the recommendation of 2,300 mg/day) – make it 31 days worth if we go by the newer guidlines of 1,500 mg a day.

Hungry for a hot dog?

Chef’s Bistro IS a Restuarant too!

Chef's Elegant Catering

Chef's Elegant Catering

UPDATE: On September 19, 2010 We went to Chef’s for a brunch and it was CLOSED. A sign for a new restaurant already in place. We were disappointed to lose a descent place close to our home.

Today, I finally got to go to Chef’s Bistro near our home; a small restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday – Sunday from 7:00 am – 2:00 pm.

My husband and I enjoy an occasional breakfast out, and have wanted to find somewhere near our home that isn’t one of those 24-hour-serve-breakfast-when-you-want chains. We live off of I-40 and what was once the edge of town, so there are a lot of those chains with poor service nearby. We want something we can ride our bikes to or even walk to if we want.

Chef’s Elegant Catering is a catering company that has been in business in Sequoia Square at Coors and Sequoia for three years. Just over a year ago, they open up the restaurant (Chef’s Bistro) part of the business. Serving breakfast and lunch only, it covers a nice variety, though not overwhelming, of breakfast and lunch dishes.  They don’t serve alcohol, which makes sense, since they don’t serve dinner; but someone did ask about beer.

We went a little after noon and I was still in the mood for breakfast. Having read a review on, I wanted the “New Orleans Famous Bananas Foster” French toast. I almost always get French toast when eating breakfast out, and love bananas foster, so this was something I had to try. French bread, bananas, and bananas foster syrup – which wasn’t too sweet. Chef’s also serves breakfast burritos, skillets, and classic breakfast plates including omelets and Huevos Rancheros.

My husband wanted a hearty lunch, since he had a long bike ride this morning. He initially chose “The Zia,” a grilled chicken breast simmered in green chile with a black bean salad. However, at the last-minute he changed his mind and ordered a Po’ boy: an original hot roast beef with gravy. Po’ boys come in 6” or 12”, and the 6” was fine with him. I ate half of his sweet potato fries. Several other lunch favorites are available too: burgers, sandwiches, salads, Po’ boys and some hot plates with fish, chicken and New Mexico favorites including enchiladas and burritos.

Chef Michael, a friendly fellow, was our server as well as the owner. I told him that I had wanted to come by for several months, but would remember at 1:30, and they close at 2:00. He says that if people come by at 1:59, they will serve them since his kitchen is the catering kitchen as well. This is a nice neighborhood restaurant with about a dozen tables. We will be regulars. To date, there isn’t a website for the Bistro, just the catering portion of the business.

New Mexico Restaurant Week is Here

Finally Restaurant Week has come to New Mexico and in its inaugural year it is running two weeks: February 28 – March 6 in Santa Fe and March 7 – 13 in Albuquerque!

For those who aren’t familiar with restaurant week, many large cities across the country do this to way to highlight their great restaurants with dinner specials at extraordinary prices. Generally you can have a three course dinner at a set price. Depending on the restaurant here it will run you from $25 for two up to $40 per person. A great deal.

Restaurant week will give you a chance to try those restaurants you have wanted to try, but considered out of your price range or just never got around to going.

I have put off getting together with friends until this week, thinking we will get more for our dollar and a great experience at the same time.

Wondering which restaurant to choose when you go? Here are my top three picks for Santa Fe and Albuquerque for New Mexico Restaurant Week.


Santa Fe:  

Compound: One of the higher end restaurants at $40 per person, which is a steal! This James Beard Award winning restaurant is worth the walk up Canyon Road to see the art along the way is worth it. My husband and I went there for my 40th birthday and walked back to the Rail Runner following dinner.

The Ore House: On the balcony overlooking the Plaza is the perfect setting for early evening people watching and the only place I have ever sat in this restaurant.

Pranzo Italian Grill: Italian in Santa Fe? Why not? It is fabulous food, walking distance from the Rail Runner, and I took a cooking class from there and still cook some of their food at home to this day.


Albuquerque: So many of these restaurants are fabulous, it is difficult to pick three, but here they are!

Seasons Rotisserie & Grill: The first time we went here, we liked it so much that we made New Years reservations on the spot. They buy local food as much as possible, and have a great wine choice to go with it. Savoy Bar & Grill and Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro are related restaurants that are also wonderful. (I cheated, but all three of these restaurants are worthy).

Corn Maiden at Hyatt Regency Tamaya: North of Albuquerque at the Santa Ana Pueblo, but worth the drive. We went here for my husband’s birthday in early February and once again went all out for the birthday dinner. Ambiance is as fabulous as the food.

Brasserie La Provence: A French restaurant in Nob Hill has a nice variety of French food. My co-worker’s French  father approves. If a Frenchman approves, then it must be good.

There are many other participating restaurants and events. I hope you get a chance to enjoy our fine restaurants, and even some of the events. I certainly enjoy our fine restaurants on occasion.