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Ladies, Enough “Fat Talk”

Yesterday Jennifer Huget wrote an article “Enough with the ‘fat talk’” in her health column of The Washington Post (Time Magazine also spoke up on the subject). What prompted the article was a new study from the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, If You’re Fat, Then I’m Humongous! Frequency, Content, and Impact of Fat Talk Among College Women.” In the study, 93% of the women examined (all of whom were a normal weight) engaged in “fat talk” and the most common response of women to other women who engaged in fat talk was to convince the friend that she was not fat.

I don’t know about you, but I have been witness to many women (and some men) engaging in “fat talk” all too often. Sometimes I hear it at the dinner table when someone says “I shouldn’t have eaten all that bread, I’m going to regret it when I step on the scale in the morning” and sometimes I just overhear a group of girls talking about their workouts (or lack thereof) and that they need to go on diets. The example Huget gave in her column is one I hear often as well. Does this sound familiar to you?

Girl A: “I look so fat in these jeans”

Girl B: “No you don’t, you are so skinny. Look at me!”

Girl A: “You cannot complain – you’re a stick”

Girl C: “Both of you shut up, I’m the fat one here”

Personally, I’ve had enough of hearing groups of fit-looking women (and men) talk about their weight, what they should or shouldn’t be eating, and how much or little they exercise in a deprecating manner. The worst response to comments like these is to try to convince your friend that she’s wrong. Most people who make these comments are doing so to get positive reinforcement that they look great, and if they do in fact feel bad about the way they look or feel or if they aren’t as healthy as they could be, telling them they look great won’t help.

Instead of saying “don’t be silly” or “no you’re not” answer their comments by asking them what’s making them feel that way? Or what do they think they can do to improve how they feel? Turning the conversation into a dialogue instead of a game of ping-pong will do more good for you, your friends, and all women.

Do you engage in “fat talk?” What do you think when you hear people engaging in “fat talk?” If you don’t like all the “fat talk” become a fan of Fat Talk Free on Facebook!

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Frozen Pomegranate Seeds

Today’s post is a link to a guest post I wrote for the fabulous dietitian Robyn Webb. She was recently visiting New Zealand and Australia (so jealous!) and asked many of her fellow dietitians to guest post on her Fabulous Food Finds blog. I was thrilled and honored when she added me to the list! And just in time for the end of National Nutrition Month with the theme “Eat Right with Color,” I had a fabulous food find: Frozen Pomegranate Seeds from Trader Joe’s.  These seeds are full of nutrients and antioxidants thanks to their deep red color.

Check out the post and tell me: Do you like pomegranate seeds? If so, how do you like to eat them?

Is MSG Safe?

The short answer is yes — MSG is included in the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list, and research in Europe, the US, and Asia shows that MSG used in prepared foods or as a condiment is safe for people of all ages.

A few weeks ago I went to a luncheon about umami — the fifth taste. If you’re not familiar with umami, it is the “meaty” or “savory” rich taste that results from monosodium glutamate (MSG) in foods. Glutamate is the most prevalent amino acid found in dietary proteins and is found in many foods, including Parmesan cheese, ripe tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, seaweed, sardines, braised beef, mushrooms, and soy sauce. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamate, and when it’s added to food in small quantities, it enhances the umami flavor.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “but MSG is bad for me, isn’t it?” I also thought that until I learned more about it and umami. It turns out that MSG contains about 70% less sodium per teaspoon than table salt (640 mg vs 2,300 mg respectively). That’s pretty amazing, especially since we know that Americans need to watch their sodium intake. Using MSG in the cooking process can actually help lower dietary sodium intake. And, the amount of MSG you take in daily is trivial – it’s only up to 1/2 gram per day (as a reference, 1 teaspoon=4 grams).

At the luncheon, chef Danny Boome (of Rescue Chef on the Food Network) served three umami-rich courses, including:

  • Grilled Orange Polenta topped with Crabmeat Salad and Herb Oil — the polenta and crab are both umami
  • Coq Au Vin — bacon, mushrooms, and chicken stock give this dish it’s umami taste
  • Green Tea Ginger Sorbet with Pumpkin Green Tea Cheesecake — green tea and cheese are both evoke the umami taste

umami green tea cheese umami

Since I don’t eat shellfish or pork, I didn’t get to fully experience this meal (I received vegetarian substitutions that had some umami elements), but what I did enjoy was delicious and definitely opened my eyes to new ways to enhance the umami taste in my cooking.

Do you experience umami in the food you eat?

Note: I was not paid or asked to write about umami or MSG. All opinions are my own.

Homemade Quesadillas

Last week in the NY Times Recipes for Health column Martha Rose Shulman shared recipes for quesadillas, which she also referred to as “healthy fast food.” It happened that I was in the midst of coming up with my shopping list for my weekly dinner groceries when I read the article and saw all the quesadilla recipes. It was the perfect solution to vary my go-to quick and healthy mid-week dinners like tofu stir fry and pasta with beans and cheese.

I made my quesadillas using corn tortillas, roasted red peppers (from a jar), sauteed onions, black beans, and reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese. To start, I sauteed the onions and then added the roasted red peppers for a few minutes. Next, I removed the vegetables from the pan and heated one corn tortilla and topped it with some of the vegetables, black beans, and cheese.

recipes for health quesadillasI then added a second tortilla on top, pressing down with a spatula for a few minutes until the cheese started to melt.  Then came the tricky part – flipping the quesadilla without everything on the inside falling out! (The key is don’t overfill the quesadilla and use your second hand to help keep it together.) I cooked it a little longer before removing it from the pan to a plate. I served the quesadillas with salsa and nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

recipes for health quesadillas This quick, easy, and healthy meal was so delicious I am sure it will become a staple mid-week dinner to add to my list.

And in case you’re wondering, corn tortillas are the healthier variety – they have half the fat and calories and one-fourth the sodium of a similar-sized flour tortilla. So unless you really dislike the taste of corn tortillas, stick with them to keep the meal lightened up.

What’s your favorite quesadilla filling?

Nutritioulicious Meals at Work

By Jo Bartell

A friend of mine who has been working from home for the past year recently started working at an innovative startup company. She was telling me that while the transition to working in an office from 9 to 5 is a welcome change, she is finding it difficult to keep her eating habits and meals on track. So, she asked me for some ideas for healthy at-work snacks and meals that will keep her satiated throughout the day and help her avoid the dreaded 4pm slump and subsequent mindless munching of high calorie treats lurking around the office. Luckily, her new office has a large refrigerator and kitchen, and as an added bonus, the company stocks the fridge full of nutritious and delicious sounding groceries. I asked my friend for a list of foods she sees in the company kitchen from week to week and here is a sampling of what she found:

Fresh fruit healthy meals at work
Hummus
Laughing Cow & part-skim string cheese
Deli meat
Oatmeal
Whole wheat crackers, bagels, & English muffins
Baby carrots & cherry tomatoes
Almonds
Natural peanut butter
Plain nonfat Greek yogurt
Olive oil

Here are some nutrtioulicious ideas I came up with for the workday:

Satisfying Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with a small handful of almonds, cut up fruit, and a tablespoon of Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 whole wheat English muffin or one slice whole wheat bread topped with 1-tablespoon natural peanut butter and sliced fruit (save the other half of the English muffin for a mid morning snack)

Light Lunch:

  • Hummus on whole wheat bread or crackers with 1 cup of baby carrots
  • Laughing Cow cheese on a slice of whole wheat bread or crackers and a few cherry tomatoes drizzled with olive oil
  • 1 slice deli meat and Laughing Cow on whole wheat bread or English muffin

Afternoon Snack:

  • Any available fruit is a great snack at any time of the day but add some protein, such as one tablespoon peanut butter, a small handful of almonds, or a piece of string cheese to stay satisfied.
  • Small handful of raw almonds (about 10) with a piece of fruit or some grapes
  • Apple with 1 tablespoon natural peanut putter
  • Pear with string cheese
  • Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, small handful of raisins, and cinnamon

What are some of your favorite healthy meals and snacks to bring to work?

Pan-Seared Salmon with Soba Noodles

The other night I was home alone for dinner for the first time in a while, so I decided to make something that I love but my husband isn’t so fond of: Salmon. I’ve previously shared other recipes using salmon (Salmon Balls, Salmon-Cucumber Rounds), but I’ve never fully explained why salmon is so good for you!

By now most everyone knows that salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that (among other things) can help reduce inflammation, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, improve memory and mood, and keep your skin glowing. Salmon is also a very good source of vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium and keep your bones strong.

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for a salmon dish that is well balanced and nutritoulicious!

Pan-Seared Salmon with Soba Noodles

Ingredients:easy salmon recipe

  • Canola oil
  • Asparagus
  • Shredded carrots
  • Salmon (~4 ounces per person)
  • Soba noodles
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Scallions, diced

Note: Ingredient amounts vary based on taste preferences.

Directions:

  1. Coat a medium to large skillet with canola oil and heat over a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the asparagus and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for another 2 minutes. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan.
  2. Add the salmon filet to the pan skin side up (you may need to add more canola oil to the pan). Cook for 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet. Turn over the salmon and cook for another 5-7 minutes skin side down.
  3. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the soba noodles. Cook the noodles according to package directions. When done, drain the water and set aside the noodles.
  4. When the salmon is done cooking, remove from the pan and discard the skin (it should peel right off). Add the soba noodles and teriyaki sauce to the pan with the vegetables and toss together. Add the salmon filet and drizzle with teriyaki sauce until everything is nicely coated and warm.
  5. Transfer noodles and vegetables to a bowl and top with the salmon. Sprinkle with scallions and enjoy!

What’s your favorite way to prepare salmon?

Fresh Pasta & Eataly

Last summer New Yorkers were buzzing about a newly opened gourmet food and wine market called Eataly. Eataly is not just any gourmet market — it is all Italian all the time. From the freshly made bread and pasta, to the butcher shop, pescheria (fish market), and produce market, and for the end of the trip cravings the espresso bar, gelateria, and pasticceria (pastry shop), you feel like you’re in Italy exploring the bounty of wonderful, delicious Italian cuisine everywhere you turn.

Not only can you buy all these delightful Italian specialties at Eataly, but you can also eat there. They have multiple restaurants including a pizza joint, a fish restaurant, a meat restaurant, and a vegetable restaurant featuring seasonal vegetables.

One of the highlights of Eataly is the vegetable butcher they have on staff. Never before had I heard of this type of job! The name really says it all – this is a butcher for vegetables. She will wash, clean, and cut your vegetables. So if you don’t know how to prep an artichoke for cooking or you don’t have time to chop vegetables but want a home cooked meal, she’s there to save your day!

Last week I visited Eataly (as I tend to do when I’m in the neighborhood) and decided to treat my husband and myself to some fresh pasta.  That night we had a pasta sampler for dinner.

We tried the Agnolotti dal Formaggio – little pillows stuffed with four cheeses topped in a tomato basil sauce. The agnolotti were so cute (see below)!

Eataly fresh pasta

We also had Ravioli Zucca – ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and amaretto cookies in a butter sage sauce. This was my absolute favorite! I felt like I was eating in a restaurant!

eataly fresh pasta

Do you have a favorite gourmet market? What do you like to buy there?