Monday, November 26, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As we approach Decemeber, there's even more delicious food to take advantage of.

Plus, the holiday season gives us the perfect excuse to turn up our favorite holiday music, put on that tacky sweater from our cousin with absolutely zero shame, and get cooking in the kitchen!

Below is our list of Healthy Holiday Tips that will encourage you to maintain a healthy perspective the whole season through.

 Practice Portion Control.
You don’t need to get our permission to enjoy some of Grandma’s stuffing, Auntie’s sweet potato casserole, or your brother’s turkey gravy.  This is the time of year that food brings people together and rekindles happy memories. We encourage you to enjoy a serving of these holiday favorites, completely guilt free. Eat them slowly, savor the flavors, wait 20 minutes after you finish eating before considering a second helping, and remind yourself you can always have more stuffing, casserole, or turkey…tomorrow.

In case you need a little help determining an appropriate portion, here’s a cheatsheet.

You Are What You Drink.
Especially for young ones—limit soda, juice, and other sweetened beverages. They tend to be high in sugar, something most kids can do without. As for parents, holiday cocktails and gourmet coffee drinks can really add up in the calorie department, without contributing much to your nutrition profile, but making a pretty significant difference in your body profile.  Try to choose the one drink or cocktail that really makes the day special and memorable, and then stick with sparkling water with lemon for the rest of the evening.

Be Real.
According to a 2010 article from the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, consuming artificial sweeteners may actually be counterproductive to weight loss. The study suggests eating artificial sweeteners makes us want to eat even more food. Why? Because the brain is unable to receive the message that the body has been given food. We remain unsatisfied until we receive what the brain thinks is adequate nourishment. If you’re craving something sweet after your meal, indulge yourself—have a small portion of the real thing. And skip the artificial sweeteners in your recipes, too. You’ll end up being more satisfied and less likely to overeat something later.  Besides that, they just don’t taste good.

Let Santa’s Little Helpers Help You.
While the meaning of the season is all too often lost among the stress and the chaos, remind yourself that the holidays are about spending time with family and friends. It's also a perfect opportunity to develop healthy eating habits with the kids in your family—and getting them in the kitchen is one of the very best ways to teach them about food. Children love to wash the potatoes, mash the yams, stir the batter, and knead the dough. And don’t forget to take pictures! These are the moments everyone will treasure long after the meal is done.

Get Moving.
Physical activity is often put on the back burner this time of year—but  for the wellbeing of your family and yourself, maybe it's time to start a new holiday tradition. How about a brisk walk around the neighborhood to look at the holiday lights, skating a few laps around the ice rink, hitting the slopes, going sledding, playing a game of tag, going for a bike ride or a swim in the pool. All of these activities are fun to do with your friends and family, will help regulate your appetite, and also relieve some of that holiday stress. It doesn’t have to be a full day commitment either. Even a few minutes here and there makes a difference. Dance party in the kitchen anyone? Count us in!

For more info about the benefits of physical activity, read our tips here.

Be Nice. Remove Yourself from the Naughty List.
“It’s dark so early.” “It’s cold outside.” “But I look forward to all the holiday treats!”

This is the time of year when it's easy to make excuses for bad choices.  Regardless of the time of year, your health should be a top priority. You deserve to be healthy, you deserve to be happy, and you deserve to feel good.  

Eat. Often.
We love to eat. Often. And one of the very best ways to help prevent over-eating is to eat. Often.

How many times have you anticipated a large meal, and “saved up” all day just to end up wolfing down your plate and feeling over-stuffed and uncomfortable? How many times have you been so busy during the day you’ve forgotten breakfast, skipped lunch, and made up for it (and more) at dinner time?

One of the most useful tips we can share with you is to nourish your body every 3-5 hours. It keeps your hunger cues in check, your metabolism going at a nice speedy pace, stabilizes your blood sugars, maintains your energy level, and keeps your holiday cheer up.

Over Do It. Sometimes.
Believe it or not, the occasional over-eating episode can actually be good for your metabolism.  If you make healthy, reasonable choices most of the time, your metabolism will speed up to counteract the high volume of food you just put in your body. The magic to this one is to practice moderation the majority of the time, and to stop feeling guilty if you over-indulge on occasion.

Believe in Santa, but be Realistic about your Diet.
If you’re hoping to lose some weight, this is not the time of year to do it. Focus on maintaining your current weight by making realistic, achievable choices the whole season through. Set yourself up for success, not setbacks. Love your family.  Love your friends. Love yourself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Healthy Thanksgiving

Our country proudly kicks off the holiday season with an entire day dedicated to food. I'm looking at you, Thanksgiving. 
 A friend recently told me, “Thanksgiving is a dietitian’s worst nightmare” – referring to the sometimes (okay, often) over-indulgence that takes place.  And we all know it doesn’t stop at Thanksgiving. The candy canes and peppermint chocolate in the office, the shortbread cookies from you neighbors, the casseroles and pies at family gatherings, the festive cocktails you enjoy with friends...the list goes on. Food is everywhere!

But, rather than fearing the holiday season for the toll the extra food may take on your waistline and your health, I want you to look at the cup half full. By simply changing your perspective and altering a few habits, the holidays can actually be a great opportunity to nourish your body with really good nutrition, while sharing it with those you love.

The holiday season is a great time of year to take advantage of some healthy eats. So what’s in season right now? 

Well for starters:

apples, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, peppers,  pomegranates, potatoes, and sweet potatoes &

I love defending foods I love. Despite the bad reputation surrounding potatoes -- thanks to the low-carb diet craze a few years back -- potatoes can actually be part of healthy diet.They’re packed with vitamin B6 and vitamin C, and also rank high on the satiety chart – that is, a serving of potatoes appeases hunger and leaves you feeling satisfied long after you’ve finished eating it. 

My best advice? 

When enjoying this seasonal item, stick to a serving size of about ½ cup and limit added toppings, such as butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits to reasonable portions.

And while all vegetables have their nutritional perks, cruciferous vegetables – including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower – deserve a little extra attention. These veggies contain unique compounds called glucosinolates which are not only responsible for giving these vegetables their pungent aroma, they have also been associated with a bounty of health benefits, including lowering risks of lung, stomach, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer. 

And now, for a recipe. 

Cauliflower Puree

While baked potatoes are always a classic favorite, a cauliflower puree is an easy way to switch up a traditional meal. It pairs well with a serving of your favorite grilled fish and a side of roasted veggies. &

Serves 4

1 large head cauliflower
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cut cauliflower into florets and place florets and garlic clove in a steamer basket. Fill medium pot with about 2 inches of water. Bring to simmer and place steamer basket with cauliflower and garlic over pot. Cover and steam about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is very tender. 

Put the florets and garlic in a food processor. Add the olive oil. Puree until smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper. 

Add back to the cooking pot and keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Enjoy, preferably with those you love.

These seasonal tips & recipe were featured in last month’s
Health & Family Guide for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
For more “In Season” tips & recipes, pick up the next issue of
The Health & Family Guide on December 21st.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Last week, Elie, my Mom (Carolyn) and I sought sun in Sonoma, landing in California to a balmy 83 degrees.  It wasn’t just sun we were after. Biking, hiking, wine tasting, napping and eating great food (not necessarily in that order) were also on our agenda.  We checked them each off the list, one by one.  

lunch at the El Dorado, in Sonoma
Here’s the scoop on Sonoma.

We chose the quaint town of Healdsburg in northern Sonoma County as home base, staying in a cottage at the Haydon Street Inn, only a short walk from the central square.  Healdsburg and the nearby vicinity have great restaurants, with almost every restaurant sourcing fresh ingredients from local farmers.  The town also boasts a variety of tasting rooms, artisan galleries and boutiques—enough to quite happily while away a lazy day.

On our first full day in town, we arrived at the Wine Country Bikes touring center in the morning to meet our guide, organic farmer Taylor Lampson, for our 25 mile trek to visit some of the area’s organic and biodynamic farms.  The beautiful ride through back roads and rolling hills included a picnic lunch at the picturesque Quivira winery, which operates a biodynamic farm and vineyard.

Getting ready to ride, at Wine Country Bikes
beautiful ride

the gardens at Quivira
part of the picnic lunch, from Oakville Grocery
The next day, we traveled from forest to sea, starting with a little wine tasting before an early afternon hike through the majestic redwoods of Armstrong Woods and then picnicking at Goat Rock Beach with provisions we had picked up from Oakville Grocery that morning. 

wine tasting, at Gary Farrell Winery

Armstrong Woods
Well, we sort of picnicked.  We chose to picnic in the car, considering the chilly, dense fog that set in as we arrived. 

At Goat Rock Beach
We then traveled the scenic route back home, stopping at Iron Horse Vineyardsfor a taste of sparkling wine, and to admire the striking view of the golden fields.

view from Iron Horse Vineyards
Walking around Healdsburg and the surrounding hills, it’s hard not to envy Californians their access to an amazing array of fresh, local foods.  Strolling down one street, we saw lemons, grapefruits, oranges, persimmons and pomegranates growing in front yards.  We resisted picking any of the fruit. But, we were tempted.

Pomegranate tree, in someones front yard
The array of fresh foods available to restaurants was evident.  We ate very well that week, beginning with a visit to Mateo’sserving creative Mexican fare. I’m totally stealing the idea for olive oil guacamole garnished with pomegranate seeds.  Brilliant.

Campo Fina and Scopa, both by chef-owner Ari Rosen, serve simple Italian, with Campo Fina focused on small plates and brick oven pizza and Scopa on house made pastas.  We’d happily go back to both.  And we were having so much fun, we forgot to take pictures.

For a sophisticated farm-to-table candlelit dinner, The Farmhouse Inn is a lovely experience.  Michelin starred Chef Steve Litke creates menus featuring the rich array of produce, meats and fish available from the Sonoma hills and coast.  While some of the dishes were hit-and-miss for our tastes, we enjoyed the overall experience. 

And, my escarole salad with a crispy fried poached egg was one of my favorite dishes of the trip.
escarole salad, with crispy farm egg
Saving the best for last:  Barndiva, which quickly became one of our all-time favorite restaurants.  Ever.  After having dinner at Barndiva one night, we returned the next two days for lunch.  The only reason we didn’t go back for dinner again—we couldn’t get a reservation.

Barndiva has the whole package.  An elegantly rustic-chic dining room, attentive and knowledgeable service, and exquisite food made with exceptional ingredients.  Here’s a look at some our favorite dishes, including some of the most memorable salads we’ve ever tasted.

salad with apples, radishes and avocado
butter lettuce salad, with grapefruit and shaved baby carrots
Mom's luscious lobster risotto
Elie's filet mignon with morels and ultra-creamy potato puree
Oh, and I can't forget the coffee at Flying Goat Coffee.  Coffee so good, Elie ordered a mocha.  That's a once (maybe twice) a year experience.

The measure of a memorable vacation? We’ll be back.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Spin on Oatmeal

This past week, my hometown, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada experienced quite the snow storm.

Trevor Boller of Boller Media Productions: 

And I’m having a hard time adjusting to the fall temperatures in California.

Taken in Malibu last week after a day of hiking
I know, it's a little bit embarrassing.

But, there is something about the cooler temperatures I really love.

Warming, comfort foods are one of them; and these types of foods aren’t just limited to dinner. Having a warm breakfast this time of year is the perfect way to start your day.

Take a peek at our recipe for Hazelnut Pancakes

While I’m guessing you’ve probably heard it before, Lisa and I can’t emphasize it enough – breakfast really is an important way to start your day. A laundry list of evidence based research has shown that those who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight and are more likely to make healthier choices the rest of the day.


Not only is breakfast essential to refuel your body and to literally "break the fast" after a night of sleeping, it also:

·         Gives you energy

·         Makes you less likely to overeat later in the day

·         Improves your mood

·         Gives you better quality workouts if you exercise first thing in the morning


Oatmeal makes a great go-to, warming breakfast this time of year.

It’s inexpensive to buy and can be made a variety of delicious, healthy ways. Adding extra spices, nuts, or fruit to plain oatmeal not only tastes great, it’s an easy way to add some additional nutrients.


Try experimenting with one of these varieties.


Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal


It’s no surprise how much I love pumpkins

 To your cooked oats, stir in:

¼ cup canned pumpkin, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, & 1- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds. Top it off with some coconut flakes or a little maple syrup for added flavor.

Fruit & Nut Oatmeal

To your cooked oats, stir in:

1- 2 tablespoons dried cherries or raisins & 1- 2 tablespoons of your favorite chopped nuts

Fresh Berry Oatmeal:

To your cooked oats, stir in:

½ - 1 cup frozen or fresh berries and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds.
Banana Orange Oatmeal

For this recipe, try cooking your oatmeal with a little bit of orange juice instead of water or milk.

Add half a sliced banana and 1- 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Oatmeal

To your cooked oats, stir in:

1 tablespoon peanut butter & a heaping scoop of plain yogurt.


*** You can substitute the oats for other whole grains like teff, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth.


Enjoy, preferably with those you love.