Sunday, March 6, 2011

March is National Nutrition Month

In recognition of National Nutrition Month, I’d like to share some quick thoughts on eating healthy, low-fat meals, and staying fit. My wife, Angie, recently compiled this information for a family member, and I thought it was worth sharing. She’s been a vegetarian for over a decade, and, lately, I find myself eating less and less meat. Although I feel better when I don’t eat meat, I still love a juicy burger, a tender chicken breast, or a medium-rare steak. So without sounding preachy, here are some dietary and lifestyle choices that are working for us.

Size Matters

Pay attention to portion sizes. What does an average portion looks like? See what you’re eating by clicking here. Click on the food and it will show you a visual for one serving size. Cheese is the size of a die? NOOOOOOO! (It’s true.) When eating out, try splitting an entré with someone. Most restaurants serve way more food than you need.

Count Calories

Paying attention to portion sizes and your daily calorie intake becomes second nature once you start. If you decide to go big at breakfast, be sure to eat a light lunch and a reasonable dinner. You can’t go big at every meal. To see what it really takes to burn off calories, hop on a treadmill or a stationary bike. Even if you hate exercising in a gym, the experience will make you think twice about snacking on chips, candy, and soda.

Your body can only burn so many calories. Be aware of what you ingest. Here is a free calorie counter. Not only does this site track total calories, but the analysis section tells you your stats for the day: fat, carbs, Vitamin A, iron, etc. This site is pretty helpful.

What to Eat?

Avoid processed foods. If it’s easy, it’s probably not healthy. Don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Spice it Up

Eat more grains, more veggies, and less cheese. Make average meals great by incorporating herbs and spices. We’ve been using lots of ginger and light coconut milk. When a recipe calls for water, we use homemade vegetable broth, which we make by boiling down vegetable scraps. (Avoid including asparagus stems, broccoli, and potato peels in your stock. Everything else is fair game – including apples and pears!)

Healthier Ingredients

When cooking, try including skim milk, low-fat sour cream, and low fat cheese. Try Cabot cheese. Their low-fat cheddar tastes almost as rich as the real thing.

Start with Soup

A great place to start is soup. Choose broth or tomato-based soups instead of cream. A big pot of soup can be portioned out and eaten all week long. Find some good soup recipes. Trust me; there are more soups out there than just chicken noodle, tomato, and clam chowder. Once again, try using your own stock. Spice it up with veggie tortilla soup. Try some new flavors and make a pot of curried butternut squash soup. If veggie chili sounds like bean soup to you, add ground turkey instead of beef.

Where’s the Beef?

A veggie stir-fry can be very filling. Who needs meat when the wok is overflowing with cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, green beans, peas, onions, mushrooms, peppers, corn, zucchini, summer squash, and carrots? Add more flavor by using dried spices, or try a jar of stir-fry sauce. (Avoid sauces with high-fructose corn syrup) Try brown rice instead of white.

Ethnic Foods

After living on the East Coast for more than a decade, Angie and I have been exposed to foods from every corner of the globe. Grow your menu by expanding your menu beyond meat, potatoes, and casseroles. If you love Italian food, choose pasta primavera instead of a cream sauce. You can’t go wrong with veggies, olive oil, and a little Parmesan sprinkled on top. Try wheat pasta.

Most Indian and Thai dishes are healthy, and you can’t beat the aromas and flavors.

I picked up an amazing recipe for a Latin bean dish from a former coworker in Queens. It tastes great in a tortilla or in a taco salad. Contact me if you’re interested. It’s not just beans and rice. Also, cut out the cheese and sour cream from time to time and add guacamole instead. My guacamole recipe includes avocados, minced onions, garlic, paprika, cumin, diced tomatoes, cilantro, salt, red pepper flakes, and apple cider vinegar.

We Eat a Lot of Pizza (Pita Pizzas)

Pita Pizzas taste better than most chain pizzas. Simply spread pizza sauce on a whole wheat pita, add toppings, cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and bake at 410 F for about 15 minutes. We like green/red peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, feta cheese, mozzarella, spinach, and grape tomatoes.

What's in Our Cupboards and Fridge?

Low-fat tortilla chips and salsa instead of chips and dip
Veggies and hummus dip
Happy Cow cheese - spread on crackers, it melts in your mouth.
Fruits such as apples, pears, pineapple, tangerines, and bananas
Homemade bread
Pitas and tortillas
Breakfast bars or granola (make sure they are under 150 calories each)
Pistachios and almonds
sparkling juice instead of soda

Meat is OK! Choose Wisely

When buying meat, choose organic, antibiotic-free beef and free-range chicken. It may cost slightly more, but you can taste the difference.

Change the Culture

If your family and coworkers enjoy celebrating everything with cakes and pies, insist yogurt or fruit is provided. You’ll be surprised by how many people forgo the sweets for the healthier options.

Simple Ways to Stay Fit

Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
Park far away and walk.
Take a walk at lunch.

A Note for Chefs

Try offering a vegetarian option other than steamed vegetables over rice or pasta. Salads and raw vegetables just don’t cut it anymore. As a cooking enthusiast, I find making quality vegetarian dishes challenging and fulfilling. There are literally thousands of recipes out there for amazing vegetarian dishes. Why alienate part of your customer base? Experiment with some new menu options and you’ll probably grow your clientele. Vegetarians are very vocal, and word spreads quickly about restaurants that cater to their dietary choices.

Educate Yourself

More information about National Nutrition Month and all things related to food and nutrition can be found on the American Dietetic Association's website.

I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month


  1. Right on! This is not preachy at all. :)

    Sara has a fave Indian recipe site:

    And here are a few great links too:
    My friend, Caryn, is a nutrition counselor and writes in New Jersey:

    And for the parents out there:

  2. You forgot to mention our liberal use of red wine and beer to balance the whole thing out. I agree with Michelle, caryn is great and love vegan lunch box for the kids!!! Happy eating!!!

  3. @michellekaiser Thanks for the links. I've had Manjula's Kitchen bookmarked for a year. (Thanks, Mrs. C!) Great full-flava recipes there.

  4. We shouldn't only be health conscious during this health month. Take care of your health to have a healthy lifestyle.

  5. So glad we made your list of recommendations for a healthy lifestyle :) Great list, thank you for sharing!

  6. @Jacquelyn - Thanks for your comment. We'd be lost without Cabot cheese.