Tag Archives: NY Times

Are functional foods really healthy?

By Megan Kian

A recent NY Times article, “Food With Health Benefits, or So They Say” (May 14, 2011), questioned the role of functional foods in our increasingly health conscious society. What exactly are functional foods? They are foods that claim to have a health-promoting or disease-preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying nutrients. For example, yogurts that claim to help regulate your digestive system or cereals that claim to help support your child’s immunity are functional foods.

The issue with functional foods is the accuracy of the health claims. Although companies are legally allowed to make these health claims (as long as they are supported by some sort of scientific evidence), you still have to wonder how truthful they are. It seems that many of the declarations companies make are just advertising ploys to increase sales of these foods. The best way to shop for healthy food in the supermarket is to take these claims with a grain of salt, read the fine print on labels, and stick to what you know is good for you.

What do you think of functional foods?

Quinoa on Passover

Tonight starts the eight-day long Jewish holiday of Passover, during which one may not eat chametz — the collective name for leavened products containing wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt.

passover holiday

Last Passover I told you about matzo – the unleavened bread that Jews eat over the course of the holiday. Over the years, supermarket shelves have become stocked with more and more foods that are Kosher for Passover, including noodles and rolls (generally made out of potato flour). One item that was approved for Passover and has become popular over the past few years is quinoa.

As quinoa has risen in popularity, rabbinical authorities realized that it is a Kosher for Passover grain — very exciting news for Jews who knew about quinoa and all it’s virtues. I for one was thrilled with this news — one more food that we can eat on Passover to avoid the monotony of matzo and potatoes.quinoa passover

I’ve mentioned quinoa before, but never really shared all of its benefits. Here are some facts about quinoa:

  • It’s an ancient grain (like einkorn), although it is actually a seed related to leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
  • It’s the only grain that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids you need.
  • It’s high in fiber and a very good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium, and iron.
  • It’s gluten-free.

Interestingly, there was an article in today’s NY Times questioning whether quinoa is in fact Kosher for Passover. The reason for the debate? Some Rabbis say that some quinoa grown in Bolivia (where it originates) is harvested with wheat and corn (two forbidden foods on Passover) so there may be some particles mixed into the packaged quinoa. To me, this debate calls to mind a bigger issue: whether the quinoa is in fact gluten-free —
an important, potentially life-threatening concern for people with celiac disease or wheat and gluten allergies.

To be 100% certain that you are getting gluten-free and Kosher for Passover quinoa you must read the labels. According to Rabbis who approve quinoa for Passover, the two brands that are given thumbs up are Ancient Harvest Quinoa and Trader Joe’s brand. So stick with these if you’re observing the holiday and/or following a gluten-free diet.

What do you think about quinoa? Do you like it?

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?

Are Children’s Menus the “Death of Civilization”?

That’s what Nicole Marzovilla, owner of I Trulli restaurant in Gramercy Park (NYC) thinks, according to the New York Times article Looking Past the Children’s Menu.

Many parents only take their kids to restaurants that have children’s menus, staples of which include macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. As a kid I was a very picky eater and mac & cheese and chicken fingers were definitely two things I loved (and still love!), so I understand the desire of parents to want the assurance of knowing that their children will have what to eat when out at a restaurant. That said, do we really need to limit the options for kids? What would happen if parents had no choice and had to order their kids something from a regular “adult” menu? (Notice that there is no such thing as an “adult” menu at restaurants — at least none I have been to.) Perhaps fewer kids would be “picky” eaters if parents introduced them to more than what have become kid basics.

What do you think about children’s menus? Do you or would you order off of them for your kids?