Gluten For Dummies: Real Tips From a Nutritionist

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“Gluten Free” is everywhere: supermarkets, magazines, and celebrity diets. Is it good for you? Does it have real health advantages? Can it help you lose weight and stay healthy? As a nutritionist to celebrities and professionals alike, I get these questions constantly. With all the hype, it’s easy to forget that there is an actual medical reason for cutting out the gluten.

What is gluten, anyway?

Gluten is a protein found in certain types of grain — wheat, rye, barley — that can cause an autoimmune reaction in in the small intestine, resulting in symptoms ranging from stomach pain to nutrient malabsorption. People that suffer from this are often diagnosed with celiac disease, which affects more than 3 million Americans nationwide. The most effective solution is a strict, gluten-free diet.

Just how many people can’t tolerate gluten?

A much wider audience is suffering from milder symptoms of gluten intolerance than previously realized — nearly 18 million Americans. Those with even the slightest bit of intolerance are turning their focus to gluten-free foods to alleviate these uncomfortable side effects.

Should I go gluten-free?

Stocking up on every food item that touts the “gluten-free” label seems like a no-brainer — but that’s not always the best-case scenario. Gluten binds foods like pretzels and cake together. Without it, food companies are forced to add extra fat and sugar to make up for the lack of texture and flavor. Hello, extra calories! Gluten-free foods can be quite expensive, too (bread at $6?). These products may be the remedy to your GI issues but could be causing a thickening waistline and a thinning wallet. My advice: Seek out foods that are naturally gluten-free, instead of trying to eat something that’s trying to be something it’s not.

5 gluten-free carbs that won’t break the bank or widen your waistline:

Oatmeal — I get this question all the time: “Is oatmeal gluten-free?” The answer is yes, naturally it is. That being said, oats are usually processed in food facilities that also contain wheat products so the chance of cross contamination is high.  However, there are companies that have isolated, specialized farms that produce gluten-free grains without this concern. Bob’s Red Mill has an entire line of oat products ranging from quick rolled or steel cut oats to GF oat flour. Pick your pleasure!

Polenta — This freshly-ground corn product actually yields a lot of options. Trader Joe’s offers an organic variety that works great as a substitute for pasta or used as a pie crust in an egg white and spinach quiche. Since polenta is gluten-free to start with, you won’t find any extra sugar or fat. A 1/4 tube serving is only 70 calories and provides two grams of protein.

Buckwheat — People usually group buckwheat into the cereal grain category, but it’s actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and is packed with magnesium and phosphorous. Replace rice side dishes with buckwheat or add to soups instead of using noodles. Besides its hearty flavor, buckwheat satisfies hunger with six grams of protein and five grams of fiber per one cooked cup serving.

Wheat free tortillas — Going Gluten-free can make sandwiches and wraps difficult. Using a low calorie, wheat free tortilla makes an excellent substitution. French Meadow bakery uses tapioca starch and rice flour to make a delicious wrap at only 120 calories.

Amaranth — One of the lesser-known grains, amaranth contains more protein than wheat in a form that is more readily available to the body. When compared to other grains, it’s also the front runner in calcium, iron and an important amino acid called lysine.  You can find amaranth in one of my favorite fiber bars by Oskri.

Try all of these alternatives and see how gluten-free works for you. It might make you feel fuller, healthier, and refreshed. But don’t let it rule your life.

Nutrition Labels Deciphered

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For most, deciphering nutrition labels can be like reading hieroglyphics. It can be time consuming and thankless.  I’m committed to providing my readers as much accurate nutrition information as possible. My belief is that healthful, wholesome products belong in your kitchen cabinets as much as they belong in mine. That’s why I created Bestowed , a monthly membership service designed to introduce you to the best, most healthy products on the market. Each month, my team and I select five products that we love and send them to you by mail. Find out more on
A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that less than 10% of participants looked at the calorie content of a nutrition label. Understandably so. There are so many confusing terms who can be expected to keep up? In this article, I’ve provided you with a dictionary of the top 7 common nutrition terms and exactly what they mean. Print this out and take it with you next time you’re out shopping. You’ll never second guess your choices again!

High- In order for a food label to claim that their product is high in a nutrient (ex. High in fiber) one serving must provide 20% of the Daily Value.  If the food contains 10-19%, then it’s considered a good source of.

Low Carb- Surprisingly, there are no set guidelines for this claim. FDA?? This leaves a lot of room for misleading labeling and frivolous purchasing.  Often when a high carbohydrate food is modified to become a low-carb food, the fat and calorie content goes up. It’s better to choose foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates such as nuts (in moderation), tofu and of course, vegetables.

Low Sodium- Foods that claim to be low sodium must contain 140 milligrams or less per serving. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2300 mg of sodium a day to prevent hypertension and risk for stroke. Needless to say this is an important label to pay attention to!

BPA free- BPA free products have become a hot topic right now. BPA stands for bisphenol A. which is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics, particularly those used in the food industry. The American Chemistry Council stands by their claim that products that contain BPA pose no risk to consumers, yet other associations feel differently. There are various products that are BPA free including cans, baby products and beverage containers. I’m addicted to my Bobble, which is a completely green self-filtering water bottle free of BPA! You’ll need to replace the filter from time to time, but one filter is equal to 300 single-serve bottles.

Non-GMO- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are crops that have been modified in a lab to remain resistant to herbicides and increase nutritional content. Often referred to as Franken-food, this experimental farming practice represents 80% of the North American crops, yet 53% of consumers claim they wouldn’t buy something that’s been genetically modified. To be absolutely certain about the status of your favorite food, check out the Non-GMO Project which provides a complete list of foods that have gone through their rigorous verification process.  Large food companies are also taking the guesswork out of GMO’s. Recently, Kashi released a promise that by 2014 all of their existing cereal products will be non-GMO verified if they are not already.

Enriched- Not to be confused with fortified, enriched means that the nutrients have been added BACK into a food that may have lost them during the refining process. People often think that this means the food has additional vitamins and minerals, but that’s not the case. Food companies simply put back what was once there. The most common example of this is enriched flour. During the refining process, essential B vitamins and iron are lost, therefore they are added back in.

Fortified- The fortification process means that an item has added vitamins and minerals in ADDITION to the ones that are naturally occurring. Plenty of foods are fortified to ensure adequate nutrition for the general population. For instance, milk is fortified with Vitamin A and D and pasta and bread with folic acid, an essential nutrient in preventing neural tube defects in infants.

Leaders of the Packed

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The first day of school represents more than just the embarkation of your child’s academic journey. Yes, there are new things to learn, skills to master and goals to achieve but it’s also important to remember your child’s mind is not the only thing getting bigger… they are too! No one wants their child to merely survive, you want them to thrive, and that starts with adequate nutrition. You may be able to prepare them for almost everything: freshly sharpened pencils, an endless supplies of neon highlighters, Lightening McQueen folders, Star Wars notebooks, Cinderella backpacks and anything else you can buy in the back to school section at Staples, but unless they are prepared to stay energized throughout the day they are merely objects, not the tools that will help them excel.

By now, we are aware of how preservative-, trans-fat-, sodium- and high-fructose corn syrup- laden all of the processed foods once infiltrating lunch boxes are, but kids still want these familiar tasting foods and we want the simplicity and ease of simply tossing items into a lunchbox. One thing is for certain: they definitely don’t want to be different than their peers who are still eating these chemically processed foods. We now know that these foods will only slow down your child, physically and academically, as well as contribute to the rising childhood obesity epidemic unfortunately sweeping the nation. At the end of the day, kids want what other kids are having, but whether its food allergies or adequate nutrition on your mind, you know you can’t send your kid off to school with those foods in their packed lunches. There are so many factors to keep in mind when you’re packing your child’s lunch- it needs to be fun and engaging, delicious, and healthful.  There are a few things we need to tackle, so let’s start with food allergies.

As I mentioned in Allergies: A to Z, the number of children suffering from food allergies is on the rise- eight percent of children until age 18 have a food allergy (that’s one in 12!). The most common food allergies include peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and tree nuts, and they the peanut allergy has become so severe that some schools have started banning peanuts all together. It may take an excel sheet with pivot tables and pie charts to keep track of which friend can’t eat what at the lunch table or the classroom food policies, so why not be proactive and pack a school lunch that won’t land you in allergy detention?

Passing on Peanuts:

Does your child love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Try a peanut-free alternative like SunButter, which is made from sunflower seeds. Healthy homemade trail mixes can always been a tough one to tackle but are great snacks, try pumpkin and sunflower seeds mixed with dried fruit and flaked coconut instead of store bought trail mixes which not only have peanuts but tons of sugary chocolate. Here are some of my favorite peanut free packaged foods:

-        Snackers crackers- seedlander (free of peanuts and tree nuts)

-        Enjoy Life soft baked cookies (nut and gluten free)

-        Trader Joe’s Soft-baked Snickerdoodles (free of all of the 8 common allergies)

Peanuts may be the most dangerous and common food allergy but one of the trickier food sensitivities is excluding eggs especially since mayonnaise is a popular condiment, try switching to hummus or honey mustard in your turkey cucumber wraps (whole wheat of course) or sandwiches (have you seen this adorable whole wheat goldfish shaped bread by Pepperidge Farms?). Also these Kidekals water-restistant, washable, personalized labels are great for informing others of your kids allergies.

Aside from allergies, our biggest concern is providing healthful lunches and snacks that will give your kids the energy they need to make it through the day. Studies show that if you equip your children with healthy food to eat at school, they will be better prepared to study and learn. And it’s not all serious- lunch making can be a fun activity as well as a great way for kids to feel independent. Before we get into some specifics, some general suggestions to healthfully spice up your kids lunch box are swapping whole grains for refined, simple carbohydrates and trying flavored drinks or waters without added sugars in place of sodas and sugary juices.

Pack Pass
GoGo sqeeZ applesauce: individual sized, mess free, 100% real fruit and no sugar added. And its fun! Motts Apple Sauce or any apple sauce with added sugar and tons of preservatives
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunnies: the perfect fun snack that are baked with no artificial ingredients. Comes in a variety of flavors, whole wheat and pretzels! Cheez-It Crackers and Teddy Grahams (they have partially hydrogenated oils eventhough they claim to have 0 g of trans fats)
Pirates Booty, Lentil Chips, Hummus Chips, 365 Soy Crispettes or Pop Chips: all of these come in a ton of flavor combinations and are never friend. They have more fiber, are all-natural and have less fat than regular potato chips. Any potato chip!
Stretch Island Fruit Company and Annie’s fruit bites are great ways for your kids to enjoy anywhere from ½ to 1 whole serving a fruit naturally and with no sugar added. Fruit by the foot or fruit roll ups (they all have tons of high fructose corn syrup or heaps of added sugar).
Horizon Organic low moisture, part skim string cheese. Polly-O string cheeses (or any non organic, part skim string cheeses) because they contain food coloring and preservatives.

And all the while, your kid has to have the coolest lunch box in class; Parenting brings us the 12 best kids lunch boxes that are too adorable (and environmentally friendly) for words!


Allergies from A to Z

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It’s that time of the year again, the thing kids dread and parents love… the first day of school! Whether your child is in preschool or high school, if your kid has food allergies it’s always a struggle to figure out what to pack in their lunch and make sure they avoid eating, but ensure they get the essential nutrients they need to stay focused in school and have enough energy to go out for the sports. Now, allergies may be as common as Starbucks locations but it’s always better to over-prepare in these situations. The prevalence of food allergies in the world is actually astounding; 4-8% of children under the age of 2, 1-3% of 3-10 year olds, and 3-4% of adults are food allergic. And while 2/3 of children will lose their food allergies over time (most frequently egg, milk, soy and wheat), peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies tend to be life long.

Food allergies are classified as Type I Hypersensitivity, and specific food allergies fall under two umbrellas: 1. Immune mediated (Gastrointestinal allergy) or 2. Non-immune mediated (Gastrointestinal intolerance). When you typically think of food allergies you think of peanuts, wheat or eggs, and these fall under the 1st umbrella (immune mediated). The most common acute symptoms are hives, flushing, itching, eczema or swelling, but immediate GI hypersensitivity symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and cramping within 1-2 hours of ingestion or diarrhea within 2-6 hours of ingestion, also commonly occur. Most of these reactions occur within minutes to up to 4 hours after exposure. Milk and wheat are the two big guys that may compromise your nutritional adequacy and are on the forefront of young children growth concerns. Approximately 50% of young children with food allergies do not meet the recommended number of servings for milk and fruit, 75% do not meet the requirements for meat, grains or vegetables and intakes were low (less than 67% of the recommended daily allowance) for calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and zinc. What I like to call the “G8 Allergens” are the eight most prevalent food allergies that cause 90% of all allergic reactions.

G8 Allergens

-        Milk

-        Wheat

-        Soy

-        Peanut

-        Egg

-        Tree nuts

-        Fish

-        Shellfish

Cows milk allergy (CMA) occurs in 3-5% of infants, and this should not be confused with lactose intolerance. CMA is a sensitivity to milk proteins such as casein or whey, while lactose intolerance is an intolerance related to an enzyme deficiency, not an actual food allergy. The good news is 85-90% of infants with CMA can tolerate soy, and even better news, 80% of infants outgrow this by the age of 3 or 4. Individuals with this allergy cannot tolerate lactaid (lactofree milk), goats milk, sheeps milk, pediasure or 1-2% milk. Growth and adequent intakes of essential nutrients are a serious concern for this population, especially in regards to calcium. The highest non-dairy sources of calcium are: sardines (3oz) with 325 mg, canned pink salmon (3oz) with 181 mg, collards and spinach (1/2 cup cook, separately) 150-180 mg, and calcium fortified juices with 100-300 mg.

Wheat allergies are extremely serious because 4 serving of enriched or whole grains provides 50% of the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and manganese for individuals >1 year old. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our brain so it is imparative to receive carbohydrates from alternate grains such as rice, corn, oats, rye and barley. However, 20% of those with wehat allergy may be clinically reactive to another grain because of their protein composition.

Eggs, soy and peanuts are less of a concern because they are not as nutritionally dense and therefore do not have as much of a nutritional impact. However, specifically with eggs, vaccinations should be on your radar. Influenza and yellow fever vaccines are typically not safe because they contain egg proteins. The most common reaction to eggs is atopic dermatitis and the egg proteins that usually cause this reactivity (ovalbumin, ovomucoid and ovotransferrin) are primarily found in the egg white, not the egg yolk. Peanut allergies, while not the most nutritionally severe, are among the most common and illicit the most severe reactions. However, 19% of kids with peanut allergies may actually eventually develop tolerance to the nut.

From a dietician’s perspective, we want to counsel individuals with food sensitivites to effectively avoid the food yet ensure nutritional adequacy to maintain healthy growth rates. If you or your child suffers from food allergies, it is crucial to see a registered dietitian who will counsel you on how to safely and effectively change your diet. When you see your dietitian or physician, the first step is usually an elimination diet where you completely avoid the food allergy for 1-2 weeks, and possibly reintroduce each suspected food into your diet one at a time to pinpoint the allergen. Laboratory and clinical testing is also done in more severe cases in which a physician will test do a skin test for food specific IgE antibodies. However, the “gold standard” of food allergy testing is the double blind, placebo-controlled food challenge.

Did you know that depending on your food allergy, you may have a heightened risk for other food allergies? Here is a chart of the most common risk related allergies.


Gluten Freedom

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Health crazes and diet trends may come and go but every so often there are advances in the nutrition and medical field that are true game changers. For decades, individuals diagnosed with Celiac disease were simply characterized with ghastly gastrointestinal problems, but with further research this multisystemic autoimmune disorder is now known to be caused by permanent intolerance to gluten, predominately found in genetically susceptible individuals. Gluten is the main storage protein of wheat, rye and barley. While gluten is mainly found in foods, shockingly it is even an ingredient in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, lip balms, play dough, toothpastes, and adhesives. Gluten wears many hats- it provides elasticity to dough, acts as a binder in many recipes, adds flavor and protein and lends that much beloved chewy texture to delicious baked goods.  With the increasing prevalence of diagnoses of Celiac disease in America, the demand for gluten free products has skyrocketed; the food industry has strongly met those demands by putting out numerous gluten-free products, making the life of sensitive to gluten easier. But, those burdened by this disease are not the only ones scooping the gluten-free brownies off the shelf of your supermarket, health conscious individuals are buying them too. So should you reach for your inner gluten freedom as well?

Well, truth be told, the only incontrovertible evidence showing the benefits of a strict gluten-free diet have been a result of research investigating its effectiveness in individuals with gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. These individuals, when introducing gluten into their diet for a prolonged period of time, have flattened villi in their small intestine, meaning they are unable to absorb many of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are necessary for optimal health. Including gluten in their diet leads to a slew of gastrointestinal problems and, more often than not, can cause iron-deficiency anemia, reduce bone mineral density and chronic fatigue, and that’s only the beginning. Currently, the only scientifically proven treatment for Celiac disease is a strict lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet and after sticking to this diet for a few months, the villi of the small intestine return to normal and the signs and symptoms begin to disappear.

Gluten-free diets have also been put under the microscope as possible treatment options for individuals with autism, ADD/ADHD, and IBS. Some parents, doctors and researchers say that children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behavior when following a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. Also, while a gluten-free diet may alleviate some symptoms, it is not proven effective as the sole treatment option for ADD/ADHD and IBS, and it is best to consult your dietician and physician before completely removing gluten from you or your child’s diet.

So what about the rest of us? Oprah eliminated gluten from her diet during her “21-day cleanse” and claimed astounding results, is she personally responsible for deeming gluten the latest dietary bad boy? While doctors estimate just 1% of the population have Celiac disease, marketers estimate that 15% to 25% of consumers want gluten-free foods. Why? Surprisingly, even if you don’t have full-fledged gluten intolerance you still may be slightly sensitive to it, causing symptoms ranging from bloating and discomfort to rashes. So, if you think you and gluten don’t mix, you may actually be right. However, the health craze may not even be gluten-related but rather a placebo effect. Gluten shunners may actually be feeling better and lose weight because they are consuming fewer processed and fast foods and reaching for healthier options like fruits, vegetables and certain whole grains. A high gluten diet may mean that you are over-consuming simple carbohydrates and sugars, two things that are digested quickly making you eat more often than you should, upping your caloric intake causing you to gain weight.

Clearly there is a fad aspect to the diet, but if it gets college kids off pizza, bagels and beer, in my opinion, the fad doesn’t seem to be so bad. What we have learned is that what is more important than minimizing your gluten intake, is what you are replacing it with. A well-balanced diet full of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean protein will do the trick. And you have to be weary of gluten-free products. Many of them have an outrageously high fat content to compensate for the lack of flavor in gluten free products. Also, giving up too much gluten when you aren’t gluten-sensitive may actually put you at risk for not getting enough vitamins, most commonly iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, and decreasing bone mineral density.

But enough talk about gluten this and gluten-free that, what we all really want to know is which gluten-free products are best. And to save you from having to read a novel, I’m not going to list everything that gluten-sensitive people cannot eat, and rather the things they can. As I mentioned before, cutting out or reducing your gluten consumption has never been easier. Restaurants and bakeries have gluten free options on their menu, some have even devoted their entire menu to being gluten free, there seem to be more gluten-free products in your grocery store than not and gluten-free blogs are among the most visited on the internet. There are some things to be mindful of when choosing gluten-free foods, mainly fat content and fiber, so always check your nutrition labels on the packaging. Here is a little gluten-free cheat sheet to start you on the right foot and remember all fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, battered or marinated) and most dairy products are gluten free! Reach your inner gluten freedom by trying out these delicious and healthy products.


Gluten Freedom Foods

Gluten-Free Grains and Starches:

-        Amaranth

-        Arrowroot

-        Buckwheat

-        Corn/Cornmeal

-        Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)

-        Hominy grits

-        Polenta

-        Pure corn tortillas

-        Quinoa

-        Rice

-        Tapioca

Bars: Renew Life Organic Fiber bar, Oskri Fiber bar (both offer 50% fiber), and The Simply Bar

Cereal: Mesa Sunrise Gluten Free cereal

Bread: Food for Life Wheat and Gluten Free breads

Waffles: Van’s Natural Foods Waffles Gluten-Free Mini’s

Crackers and Rice Cakes: Health Valley Original Rice Bran Crackers and Mother’s Natural

Nut Butters: MaraNatha

Snacks: Sea’s Gift Roasted Seaweed Snacks

Frozen Meals: Amy’s Brown Rice and Black Peas and Organic Bistro Sesame Ginger Wild Salmon Bowl

Sauce: Amy’s Premium Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce (Light in Sodium)


Be Selfish, Eat Shellfish!

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The summer heat makes me avoid my oven like the plague; I do anything to steer clear of over heating. This becomes extremely apparent in my summer lunch and dinner dishes. As fruits and vegetables change with the season, shifting from hearty potatoes, starchy squash, and leafy brussel sprouts to sweet melons, plump tomatoes, crunchy zucchini and deliciously tart berries, my cooking takes on the same evolution. Most obviously lacking heavy stews, lengthy meat cooking times and oven-roasted vegetables, the protein in my meals also shifts and my body happily welcomes shellfish as it steals the spotlight away from braised meats. The texture and weight of shellfish dishes easily lends to its ability to make you feel lighter.

The summer months breed the tastiest varieties of shellfish and since shellfish is the topic of this post, it should come as no surprise to you that when you prepare shellfish with health in mind (no you will not see deep fried oysters as part of this post) it can be extremely nutritious, healthful and the perfect protein source to help you slim down.

Shellfish is most well known for being a great protein source that is often low in fat; categorized into two groups: crustaceans and mollusks, both have plenty of nutrition and sustenance to offer. Crustaceans are jointed with a crust-like exoskeleton and include lobster, shrimp and crabs. Mollusks are soft-bodied but still covered by a shell and include oysters and clams. When it comes to calories, these guys definitely have our four-legged friends beat. On average, 3 oz of lean meat can equate to about 210 calories, that’s more double the calories in 3 oz of shrimp, lobster and oyster which come in at 101, 76 and 87 calories respectively. But you can’t beat the protein in red meat, right? Actually this isn’t the case. You may be surprised to find that 3 oz of lean red meat can give you about 17 grams of protein while 3 oz of lobster will give you about the same (16.5 g of protein) and 3 oz of shrimp can give you even more, about 19.5 gram of protein! Protein is necessary for growth, repair and maintenance of tissues and with RDA (recommended daily allowances) coming in at 56 g for men and 46 g for women, it’s a good idea to swap some of your red meat intake for these high protein, low fat shellfish options.

And that’s just their protein and calorie content! There are plenty of nutrients found in shellfish that are vital for optimal health. Shellfish are great sources of vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for health of nerve cells, red blood cells and is good for your metabolism. 6 oz of shrimp contains 2 micrograms of B12 and 6 oz of scallops contains 2.6 micrograms. They are also good sources of zinc and choline. Zinc is a mineral essential for growth and development, energy metabolism and immune function and choline is necessary for cell membrane structure, cell signaling, fat transport of nerve transmission. Lastly, most shellfish, and shrimp in particular, are excellent sources of iron. 6 oz of shrimp contains 4.1 mg of iron, which is nearly ¼ of the RDA for iron in women.

Now, the next most common question about shellfish is about its cholesterol content. For the record, scientists are not 100% aware of the impact that dietary cholesterol has on our blood cholesterol levels, but limiting your dietary cholesterol intake is strongly advised, especially if you have high cholesterol, are overweight or have a family history of heart disease. While “good” cholesterol is necessary for the synthesis of steroid hormones and bile, shellfish do contain higher amounts of “good” and “bad” cholesterol than most other proteins, so, again, if you have a history of heart disease or high cholesterol, it is best to limit your shellfish intake. Here is a helpful chart to see how shellfish stacks up against commonly associated high-cholesterol foods.



Cholesterol Content (mg)

Lobster (3 oz)

75 mg

Shrimp (3 oz)

120 mg

Scallops (3 oz)

135 mg

Low-fat Cottage Cheese (1/2 cup)

5 mg

Cheddar Cheese (1 oz)

30 mg

Shrimp may be the most popular non-canned seafood in America but most people are not aware that brown shrimp, especially the large ones, contain a large amount of iodine. Iodine is found in a type of plankton that takes up a lot of real estate in the diet of brown shrimp. So, if you are sensitive to iodine or have hypo/hyper-thyroidism it would be best to consult your doctor or dietician about your shrimp intake.


But enough about the nutrition in shellfish, it’s time to focus on an equally important aspect of shellfish- eating it! Shellfish is extremely easy to prepare and rarely involves lengthy cooking times. Here are some of my favorite shellfish recipes, I hope you enjoy!

1. Seared Scallops with Lemony Sweet Pea Relish

2. Shrimp Boil

3. Garlic Seafood Pasta

4. Curried Coconut Mussels

5. Picnic Perfect Lobster Rolls

* While a severe allergic reaction of anaphylaxis is rate, unfortunately, minor shellfish allergies are quite common. Some of the symptoms include:

-        Hives, itching or eczema

-        Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body

-        Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing

-        Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting

-        Dizzinesss, lightheadedness or fainting

-        Tingling in the mouth

Be sure to see a doctor or allergy specialist if you have possible food allergy symptoms shortly after eating.


Best Pasta Substitutes


The fear of pasta deprivation is one of the main reasons people despise low carb diets.  But guess what? There are many low carb, high fiber and gluten-free alternatives to pasta on the market. So skip the standard white pasta and reach for a healthier alternative! This week, my team and I have brought you our favorite white pasta substitutes along with some useful tips to help you stay in check.

Heather’s Favorite Pasta Alternative

Shiritaki noodles are a low-carb Japanese noodle make from konnyaku root, which is part of the yam family.  An entire container is just 40 calories! Just make sure to follow the cleaning instructions for a fabulous addition to your meal. Kombu noodles are green noodles made from seaweed and are also surprisingly low in calories. Both are plain in taste and therefore work well with seasonings in soups, salads or used as the main star of your meal in a stir fry or with pasta sauce.  You can buy them at Whole Foods in the refrigerated aisle next to tofu products.

Favorite preparation: I love making a stir-fry with noodles. Before putting them in my wok, I make sure to rinse them in a colander and then put them in a pot of low sodium chicken or veggie broth until hot and then drain out the broth and pat the noodles dry. Then, add the noodles to the wok with peppers, broccoli, water chestnuts and some lite soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and a touch of sesame oil. For an extra protein punch, choose between slices of chicken, shrimp or tofu. Delish!

Tip: Instead of reaching for a fork, use chopsticks to not only slow you down, but to make the eating experience fun.

Stephanie’s Favorite Pasta Alternative

Cup for cup, spaghetti squash has fewer than 25% of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti and is nutritionally superior. One cup of plain cooked, boiled or baked spaghetti squash has about 40 calories and is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and B vitamins.

Favorite preparation: For an easy vegetarian option, mix the spaghetti squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Yum!

Tip: Jam-pack your noodle dish with a variety of veggies and lean protein like chicken or lean ground turkey to bulk up the dish the healthy way. Although spaghetti squash takes longer to cook whole rather than cutting the squash before cooking, it’s much easier to cut open afterwards. Just make sure to pierce the squash several times before microwaving in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Let the squash stand for 5 minutes before cutting it open and removing the seeds and pulp. Separate the spaghetti squash strands with a fork.

Dara’s Favorite Pasta Alternative

Quinoa pasta from Ancient Harvest, is a corn and quinoa flour blend has a mild nutty flavor and tastes similar to whole wheat pasta. It’s loaded with protein, it’s very low in sodium and cooks in 4-6 minutes. Quinoa stands alone as a complete protein grain and is high in protein, thiamin and riboflavin. And it’s also gluten-free! Quinoa pasta comes in a variety of pasta shapes.

Favorite preparation: Add ½ cup cooked quinoa pasta with ½ cup of tomato sauce, ¼ cup of part skim ricotta and for meat lovers – add some lean turkey meatballs.

Tip: Only portion out what you need. The more you make at one time, the more you’ll likely eat! Since ½ cup is a portion of pasta, portion out ¼ cup of dry pasta per person. Make it a side dish instead of main focus of your meal.

Research Roundup: How to reduce your risk of heart disease

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Are you curious about what to eat – and what not to eat – to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease? The OmniHeart trial published information in the February 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Dietetic Association on the effectiveness of three different eating patterns to decrease blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors. Saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium intake were kept even in the three groups, but total carbohydrate, protein, and monounsaturated fat content differed. All three diets lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and decreased overall risk of developing heart disease. Each diet emphasized the use of fresh fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products; included whole grains, nuts, and fish; and reduced intake of red meat, sweets, and sugary beverages.

These global, population-based messages are important, but science is taking the next step in making individualized recommendations, based on your personal genetic profile. Navigenics is one company with a federally certified laboratory that screens personal genetic material from a sample of saliva and provides clinically-based, individual feedback on specific steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. In the near future, your physician will be able to give you precise guidelines on lifestyle habits to prevent chronic disease. For now, keep eating your fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, and whole grains.

Research Round-up: Predicting Weight Maintenance

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We all know there are many ways to lose weight – some are healthy and some are not so healthy. Generally, when simply looking to drop pounds in any way possible, such as a detox diet, you can end up packing on even more weight later on. In a recent study, slated to be published in January of 2008 in Preventing Chronic Diseases, researchers looked at the dietary practices and physical activity changes that led to successful weight maintenance. The researchers analyzed data on number of daily fruit and vegetable servings, minutes per week of physical activity, dining out frequency and confidence in one’s ability to engage in behavioral strategies. They found that adults who reported not eating at fast-food restaurants (as compared with going two or more times per week) were more successful at weight loss maintenance. In addition, those who consumed fewer than five fruits and vegetables, but accrued more than 420 minutes of physical activity per week, or those who consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables and accrued 150 minutes or more of physical activity were more successful maintainers than those adults who consumed fewer than 5 fruits or vegetables per day and who were sedentary. Therefore, the behaviors that were adopted in order to initially lose the weight do indeed have some bearing on whether you will be able to keep the weight off. As you embark on your New Year’s resolution, please keep this in mind, and aim for a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and physical activity.

Stress, Sleep, and Weight Gain – Oh My!

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In late October of this year, the American Psychological Association released the results of a national survey on stress. They found that 1/3 of Americans are living with extreme stress, and that nearly half of Americans believe their stress levels have increased over the last five years. In addition, a majority of adults (63%) do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, needed for good health, safety, and optimum performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, over the past 40 years, Americans have cut their sleep time by 1-2 hours a night. These trends towards more stress and less sleep coincide with Americans becoming heavier each year. It is no surprise then that recent research has found that both stress and sleep are correlated with weight gain.

Lack of sleep appears to affect hormone levels. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells which signals the brain to stop eating. Ghrelin, a hormone made in the stomach, signals the body to continue eating. Studies have shown that in individuals who are sleep deprived (i.e. sleeping less than 8 hours per night), leptin levels are lower and ghrelin levels are higher. This combination is therefore likely to increase appetite. On top of all that, the brain interprets a drop in leptin as a sign of starvation. In order to protect itself, the body not only responds by increasing your appetite, but it also burns fewer calories.

But, that’s not all. Lack of sleep also seems to affect insulin resistance and blood glucose levels. Insulin is the hormone that lets glucose (aka blood sugar) into the body’s cells, to be burned for energy. When people are insulin resistant, the insulin does not work efficiently. This can increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

As with lack of sleep, being stressed also affects certain hormones. When the body is stressed, it releases adrenaline, along with corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol. The adrenaline and CRH first affect the body by decreasing your appetite, since in the typical “fight or flight response” (when stress is highest), having to stop and eat would surely not help to save your life. However, this decreased appetite only lasts for a short time. Cortisol kicks in later. Its job is to help the body replenish its stores when the stress has passed, and cortisol’s effects last a lot longer. Moreover, since the body is looking to quickly replenish its energy stores, it begins to crave sugar. Cortisol may also work to slow down your metabolism, since it is trying to quickly replenish lost nutritional stores.

Stress may also affect weight gain in other ways. Aside from cortisol’s affect on the body, stress often leads to nervous energy. An increase in nervous energy in some people leads to nervous or emotional eating. Furthermore, stress is also largely associated with a lack of time. This lack of time may affect being able to prepare healthy meals, leading to an increase in fast food consumption. It may lead to less time to exercise. Or, it may lead to a lack of sleep, thus starting a vicious cycle…

What to do?

1. Try a stress-reducing activity such as listening to soothing music or going for a walk.
2. Maintain a regular bed and wake-time schedule, including weekends.
3. Get organized. Create lists and schedules to get work done. Delegate tasks when possible.
4. Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed. A calorie is a calorie, and eating late at night won’t lead to weight gain. However, eating late at night can make you more uncomfortable when you lie down for bed and thus interrupt sleep.
5. Exercise! Exercise helps to reduce stress, makes it easier to fall asleep, and contributes to a more sounds sleep. Just try to complete your workout a few hours before bed.

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