Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Facing the facts

Last fall, a law was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act requiring all restaurants with 20 locations or more to list calorie information on menus and menu boards for all menu items.  In addition, restaurants would be required to carry the remainder of the nutrition information (fat, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrate, etc.) in the store.  The enforcement of this law has been delayed, but rumor has it that we will be expecting changes nationally by the end of the year.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal just made headlines: "1 in 6 changes order when menus list calories." 7,300 New York lunch-time diners were surveyed at 11 fast food chain restaurants 12 months before the law took effect. Nine months after the law became effective, diners were surveyed again.  Calorie intake was reduced by up to 80 calories at the top three restaurants studied.  This is a significant difference, since an intake of 100 calories less per day will result in a ten pound weight loss per year (currently Americans gradually gain weight each year).

As a health-conscious person and dietitian, I'm totally in favor of the new guidelines.  After years of familiarizing myself with nutrition information, I continue to be shocked by the calorie and fat content of many restaurant foods.  Currently a vast majority of the nutrition information can be found online or on apps, but it can still be difficult to locate in a timely fashion.  Seeing the calories in front of me when I'm placing my order definitely affects my choice.

The good news is that restaurants seem to be listening.  Note the 550 calorie meals at Applebee's, default low-fat milk at Starbucks and the upcoming changes to the McDonald's Happy meal (half-portion of french fries and addition of apple slices).  Still the decision rests in our hands.

So my question to you is: Will your order change when you have to face the facts?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Watch my garden grow!

I’m becoming a bigger and bigger advocate for growing your own vegetable/fruit garden for many reasons:
  • It saves money on produce (always a plus)!
  • You get the freshest, tastiest produce.
  • Gardening gets the family involved.  It encourages all family members to have pride in and appreciate their food.
  • It teaches the younger generations that healthy food is important and that dedicating time to food is important.
  • It’s fun and rewarding!
Simply put, gardening is a smart and simple joy that is getting lost in this fast and furious world we live in.

Although I grew up eating tomatoes from my extended familys' gardens, I first tried my hand at vegetable gardening two years ago, quite simply: with a potted cherry tomato plant on my deck. Last year my husband and I built a small, raised bed in our backyard.  The deer ate half the plants before they even got started, but we did have a small, but less than tasty harvest.  We worked on improving our soil to help grow a better product.  
Planting in late April.
And guess what the first thing we did this year was?  Build a fence around the garden to keep the deer out.  Simple and effective!  This year I planted: one yellow squash, one cucumber, two tomatoes, one cherry tomato and three bell peppers.  On my deck and in my kitchen window, I keep adding to my fresh herb collection, which now consists of basil, parsley, rosemary, lavender, mint and stevia.  For less than $20 I’m expecting bunches of produce and year-round fresh herbs!  One hint: buy from a local garden center or hardware store—they have cheaper plants and supplies.

Garden at the beginning of July.
All are growing successfully except for the cucumber; it didn’t make it very far.  If you’re in St. Louis, just like many other cities, now we’re suffering through a 100-degree heat wave.  And my plants are suffering a little too. But regardless, here’s my first harvest of the year!

That squash made an awesome addition to pasta--coming soon on the blog--and you just can't beat a fresh tomato on a turkey sandwich!

More than just inexpensive and tasty produce, a garden provides tons of inspiration for GOOD food! Delicious and nutritious food, that is.  For the remainder of the summer, I’ve decided to share some of the dishes that I’ve created with my backyard garden. Hopefully it will inspire you too!  Subscribe to become a “goodfoodie” and you’ll receive updates whenever I post.  If you’re already a gardener, I’d love to see your comments!  What do you grow?  Do you have any helpful tricks for the beginner?  What fresh and tasty recipes have you created?

Mint gone wild!
Planting your own garden is merely one way to enjoy fresh, affordable produce. And it really doesn't take as much time as you think.  But if you’re not ready to try out your green thumb, try a local farmers market or a co-op. If gardening is new to you, start how I did: small.  Pick a vegetable and plant it in a pot.  It’s easy and cheap—and you’ll learn a little every year until you become a master.  If you just need a little advice, check out this past post with some links to helpful books to get started.  Here's something I've learned: Miracle Gro!
Happy harvesting!

P.S. In the near future, you’ll find all the upcoming recipes and more in my recipe book or included in my ready-to-use meal plans available through RDbyyourside.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chicago's showcase of simple flavors equals GOOD food!

Sorry for the hiatus in my posting; I was on summer vacation in Chicago enjoying a GREAT city and of course good food.  In merely one week it’s impossible to even come close to sampling the variety of delicious foods available in Chicago.  Although we don’t make dining out a habit, my husband and I made it a point to try a different eatery every day we were there. 

Some of my favorites this trip:

Crab & Shrimp Tower at Rock Bottom Brewery: delicious crab and poached shrimp stacked with avocado and tomatoes, served with flatbread.  Perfect for summer and great inspiration for home.

Spinach stuffed pizza from Giordano’s: you just can’t go without Chicago’s famous pizza.

Shrimp cocktail at the Signature Lounge atop the John Hancock Observatory: the dish was not out of the ordinary, but the view was unbeatable!

Hearts of romaine salad from Quartino: this “small plates” (I call it Italian tapas) restaurant features so many creative dishes to try, but I was impressed by the unique, simple flavor of this dish.  The lettuce was drizzled with honey, lemon juice and olive oil, then topped with shaved grana (similar to parmesan). That’s it!  The salad, along with the majority of the menu, really showcased the simple ingredients in food and my motto: good food tastes good.  The salad will definitely be repeated in my home!  I was also taken by the atmosphere: I could picture myself dining casually in Italy!  Wooden tables, water served in a bottle on the table, dishcloth-resembling napkins, a stack of appetizer-sized plates right on the table and pour-yourself wine from the decanter.  One of my new favorite restaurants.

I saw a girl on the beach eating the most delicious-looking sandwich that I had to ask her where she got it...Fox and Obel (a local city market). I was dying to try it but never got to—next time for sure.

Lastly, a place I will always go when I visit Chicago: Anne Sather.  The cinnamon rolls at this Swedish diner are completely indulgent--and yes I’m aware that they are not healthy--but they are amazing.  Totally worth the extra walking around the city to burn them off! 

Traveling is an adventure and enjoying the local cuisine is part of the total experience.  Expand your horizons and experiment with different foods that may not be available (or you don’t normally gravitate toward) in your hometown.  You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.  There’s all kinds of good food out there—and it can be good for you too!