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Simple Ingredient Swaps for a Healthier Meal

April 16, 2012

With summer right around the corner, everyone is trying to watch what they eat and go extra hard with their workout routine.  I have some great news; you can still eat the foods you love while watching your figure, just by making simple ingredient substitutions.  Swapping one or two ingredients still keeps the delicious taste of the recipe but can cut down the cholesterol, fat, sodium, sugar, and overall calories.  Follow these easy substitutions the next time you make your favorite recipes:

Original Ingredient


Healthy Substitutions


1 whole egg  2 egg whites Reduce cholesterol, double protein 
Whole or 2% milk  1% or skim milk Reduced calories and fat
Sour cream Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese  Reduced calories and fat
Cheese (cheddar, Swiss, etc.)  Reduced or fat free cheese Reduced calories and fat
Whole milk mozzarella cheese  Part-skim or fat free mozzarella cheese Reduced calories and fat
Butter  Margarine made with canola or olive oil  Reduced calories and fat
Bread crumbs Rolled oats, crunched fiber cereal  Reduced sodium, higher fiber
Croutons Unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts)  Reduced sodium, higher omega 3 and healthy fats
Salt Herb blends  Reduced sodium, increased antioxidants
Canned beans Dried beans  Reduced sodium
Ice cream Sherbet or ices Reduced fat
Oil, shortenings, or lard Applesauce or prune puree (in baked goods) Reduced fat
Canned soups Homemade soups Reduced fat and sodium

Additional quick tips for a healthier recipe:

–          Increase vegetables in pastas and casseroles

–          Cut back on fat, sugar, and/or sodium by reducing the amount called for by 1/3.

–          Make your own blend- if a recipe calls for 1 cup of cheese, prepare ½ part-skim :½ fat free

–          Opt for baking or grilling instead of frying

–     Lastly, watch those portion sizes!  By taking ½ of the portion you would normally take, you can significantly cut down on calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.  Think of the MyPlate when portioning your  foods and don’t forget to double up on those        fruits and veggies!

Feel free to share some of your tips that make your recipes healthier.


Build a Better Sandwich: Happy National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day!

April 12, 2012

Happy National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day!  That’s right; the warm, gooey comforting grilled cheese sandwich has its own holiday!  What better way to celebrate than to go over some tips on how to give your classic sandwich a healthy makeover.

Bread:  Try making your grilled cheese sandwich using whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Using whole wheat bread will boost your fiber intake and help keep your GI tract working well.  Or, try wrapping up your grilled cheese, by using a whole-wheat wrap. This will most certainly give your old sandwich a sophisticated spin.

Veggies: Add your favorite veggies to a grilled cheese for added flavor and nutritional power!  Some veggies that will make delicious additions to your grilled cheese include romaine lettuce, slices of tomatoes, cucumbers, and red or green peppers to enhance flavor.  This is a simple and delicious way to increase your vegetable intake for the day.

Protein:  For those of you who are vegetarians, I bet you never considered jazzing up your grilled cheese sandwich with hummus, peanut butter, veggie patties, or tempeh.  Remember, sandwiches are not just for cold cuts!

Cheese: Cheese is the most essential component to a grilled cheese sandwich.  What would a grilled cheese sandwich be without the cheese?  Make your grilled cheese a bit healthier by using low-fat or nonfat cheese products.  Get creative…you don’t always have to use American cheese.  Try low/nonfat shredded mozzarella or Muenster cheese to lower your overall fat content.

Condiments:  Mix it up with condiments.  Instead of using regular mayo, use nonfat mayo or better yet, mustard.  Or try using nonfat dressings to add flavor without adding unnecessary calories.   Add salsa for a low-fat way to spice it up!

Get creative:  When people think of sandwiches, most think of cold sandwiches.  Grilled cheese sandwiches can be made in the toaster oven, in a pan on the stove top, or in a Panini maker.  Looking to add some fiber to your day?  Try adding a tablespoon of milled flaxseed to the middle of your sandwich for a fantastic fiber bonus; it’s that easy!

As you can see there are many healthy variations you can make to revamp your grilled cheese sandwich.  Making these changes or additions to your grilled cheese can be a convenient way to add healthy nutrients to your menus.

What are some of your favorite ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich with a nutritional twist?



Grow a Green Thumb and Garden for Good Health!

April 9, 2012

Spring has certainly sprung, and this unseasonably warm winter has made April an even better month to begin your own garden.  And what better week to do it than during “National Garden Week!”  Even if it is just a small pot of fresh herbs, caring for a garden can make a difference in your health.

According to a study published in Science magazine by Roger S. Urlich, researchers found that patients recovering from surgery who looked at views of nature had significantly shorter recovery periods than those looking at non-nature related images.  It is believed that there is some electrical activity in the brain that positively responds to natural images.  The activity involves a shift in emotional states which is said to boost immune function.

Besides the positive brain boosting gardening seems to promote, it is also a great way to get moving and escape our sedentary routines.  Working on a garden may not seem like exercise, but the movements of bending down to pull weeds, shoveling out your garden plot, planting, and watering, all count towards daily physical activity.  All this is being done in the fresh, outdoor air, where your body has the ability to absorb the sun’s Vitamin D, which so many are lacking in.  There is also the obvious benefit of having your own fresh produce at your fingertips to use all summer long.

If you have never grown a garden before, fear not, it only involves a few simple steps to get your first garden going.  First, decide where you will plant your garden.  It is important to know the amount of space you are allotting to your plants because this can play a role in deciding what you grow.  Some plants such as tomatoes and peppers can grow upwards on cages.  You can plant them relatively close together so you can have quite a few of these in a small space.  Other vegetables like squash and eggplant take up more room because they grow outward.  Next, prepare the space for gardening.  Loosen the soil with a hoe or rake.  Then add in some organic material or topsoil which should be rotated into the soil about 1-1 ½ ft. deep.  This ensures that the soil is mixed together well.  Now you are ready to plant.  Generally you want to dig a hole that is about twice the diameter of your plant to place it in.

Consult with the farm owners or nursery workers where you purchase your plants to find out more on how they grow, and on what plants grow best in your particular area.  If you have a very limited amount of space or time, start with fresh basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro plants in a small pot on a windowsill or on the front steps of your home.   No matter how big or how small, there are many benefits to having a home grown, healthy garden!

Whether you are gardening as a hobby or as a family activity, growing a garden provides exercise and a “no excuse” reason to eat your fruits and veggies.

Send me a picture of your vegetable garden!

A Healthy Diet Can Reduce Your Stress

April 5, 2012


April is National Stress Awareness Month.  In today’s day and age, we all have jam packed schedules and take many responsibilities.  At times it can be extremely overwhelming, but there are things you can do and foods you can eat to help manage and control your stress levels.  High stress levels can cause health issues to arise and can be harming to your mental state.

It is important to identify your stressors and what triggers you to become “stressed out”.  Keeping a stress log can help you see what caused the stress, how it made you feel emotionally and physically, what your reaction was, and what you did to make yourself feel better.  Some unhealthy ways of coping with stress include smoking, overeating or under eating, consuming alcohol, procrastinating, or taking your stress out on others.

Tips to better manage stress:

  • Focus on the positive!  Many times when we have so much going on that we are struggling with, we forget to focus on the positive aspects of our life.  Take a moment and remember all the good that surrounds you.
  • Swap unhealthy stress responses with good habits such as taking a walk, exercising,  calling a friend, taking a bubble bath, listening to music, or reading a good book.
  •  Avoid stressful situations, if possible.
  • Adopt a healthful lifestyle: get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, participate in regular physical activity, and reduce your intake of caffeine and sugar.
  • Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks; there may be too much on your plate and you will find that you can actually delegate to others.
  • Improve your time management skills so you can better manage your time to get more tasks accomplished thereby reducing your stress.

Foods to eat to lower your stress level:

Several studies suggest that certain foods can positively impact stress by boosting levels of serotonin, the “feel good” calming brain chemical.  Other foods reduce the level of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones that can negatively impact the body in a person suffering from chronic stress.  Try to include the following foods in your menus as often as you can:

  • Complex carbohydrates:  All carbohydrates tell the brain to make more serotonin. Complex high fiber carbs such as whole grain cereals, breads, and pastas are the best type to eat.  In addition, these carbs are digested slower and help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, can prevent a surge in the stress hormones.  It is suggested to try eat fatty fish 2-3 times per week.
  • Vitamin C: Studies have shown vitamin C found in oranges and other fruits and vegetables can help reduce stress levels while boosting the immune system.
  • Spinach: Think spinach the next time you are feeling stressed.  Often times, stress and pressure can deplete the body of magnesium.  Magnesium, which is found in spinach, helps to regulate cortisol levels, one of the stress hormones.  Eating just one serving of spinach can help restore your magnesium levels.
  • Pistachio Nuts: A handful of pistachios each day can help reduce blood pressure, which often increases during a stressful time.
  • Almonds are high in vitamin E and B vitamins and can help to body bounce back during times of stress

What are some other ways YOU keep your stress under control?


April 3, 2012

Here are the last 10 tips in my 30 Tips in 30 Days Countdown to Passover Series!  There is still time to get Passover the Healthy Way:  Light, Tasty and Easy Recipes Your Whole Family Will Enjoy at

TIP # 10:  Be a smart consumer and know your prices.  Check out the circulars from the various stores that have Passover sections and make a list of which items are less expensive in which store.  Then, organize your shopping days to avoid running back and forth between stores to check prices.  The prep time you put in before you head out to the stores will be a time saver later on!

TIP # 9:  Sour cream is high in fat and calories.  If your family loves cheese blintzes or crepes topped with sour cream, swap out the sour cream and top with low fat plain yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon to help trim both fat and calories without trimming the flavor!

TIP # 8:  Make it from scratch!  Pre-packaged foods and baked goods can be pricey.  Try preparing these items from scratch.  More often than not, most staple items can be found right in your kitchen and you can modify the ingredients of your family recipe to make it healthier!  You will cut down on sodium, fat (specifically trans-fat) and unhealthy additives often found in these processed foods by making it yourself.  Don’t know how?  Passover the Healthy Way cookbook has all your favorite Passover recipes that have been modified to be lower in fat, sugar, and/or sodium and most importantly are DELICIOUS!  Order your copy at and receive a FREE gift with your order!

TIP # 7: One of my kids favorite dairy Passover dishes is Sweet Matzoh Kugel.   Regular Matzoh Kugel has about 8-10 grams of fat and 68 mg of cholesterol per serving.  I swap out full fat cheese and use low fat cottage cheese, and egg whites instead of whole eggs.  It’s delicious and has only 1 gram of fat and 4 milligrams of cholesterol.   Try it!

TIP # 6:  Don’t pay extra for convenience!  While it may be tempting to buy that fruit platter or vegetable crudité platter all prepared, these pre-made platters often cost more.  This Passover season purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and prepare it at home!

TIP # 5: The leader of the Seder reclines on a pillow during the Seder.  Have the kids decorate a pillow for dad…it’s a fun craft the kids will enjoy and be proud of!

TIP # 4:  Nuts are a popular snack on Passover and a lot of Passover recipes call for nuts.  While nuts are a healthy choice, you must watch your portion sizes.  If a Passover recipe calls for 1 cup of nuts, try cutting the amount in half and toast them to bring out the flavor!   This will cut the calories and fat in half!

TIP # 3:  Mistakes are a part of life.  Keep track of what worked and what didn’t this holiday season.  Save the list to make improvements for next year.

TIP # 2:  Set the Seder table on Thursday, the day before Passover begins.  It’s one less thing you have to do on Friday!  If you haven’t purchased your copy of Passover the Healthy Way cookbook, you still have time!  Hurry, go to and order your copy today!

TIP # 1:  In spite of all the chaos in getting ready for Passover, make sure you take the time to relax and enjoy your loved ones, and take the time to remember what Passover is all about.  And don’t forget to enjoy all the delicious food Passover the Healthy Way brought to you this holiday season!



Fresh Tomato Day is on its Way!

April 1, 2012

This Friday, April 6th, is Fresh Tomato Day!  Did you know that tomatoes are actually a fruit not a vegetable?  They contain little seeds which put them in the fruit category but have the versatility of a vegetable.  The tomato has nutrients that can lower hypertension, reduce the risk of cancer, treat urinary tract infections, help with eye sight, and give a glowing skin complexion.  Tomatoes are most known for their high lycopene content.  Lycopene eliminates cancerous free radicals in the body.  This cancer fighting antioxidant actually gives tomatoes that rich red color.

Selecting and Storing Tomatoes:

Select smooth, bruise-free, firm tomatoes with vibrant color.  If your tomatoes are not fully ripe, store away from direct sunlight in cool temperature.  Refrigerate only when ripe.  Keep tomatoes for no more than one week.

Using Tomatoes:

So, exactly how versatile is this vegetable…I mean fruit?  There’s tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, tomato soup, even a movie called ‘Fried Green Tomatoes!’  I’ll stop there.  Here are a few tasty tomato ideas.

  •  Tomatoes are at their freshest in the spring and summer.  So, now is the perfect time to grill them.  Cut tomatoes in half and lightly coat with olive oil. Add your own flavor with herbs and spices.
  •  Salsa is a tasty way to use tomatoes.  Chop up tomatoes and onion and minced garlic cloves.  Add chili powder, salt and pepper.  Include jalapeños if you like it spicy and lemon for additional flavor.  Enjoy your homemade salsa with baked whole wheat tortilla chips.
  •  Don’t forget to add tomatoes to your sandwiches, salads and wraps!

Even though the weather is getting warmer, I enjoy soup all year round.  Here is one of my favorites….with non-other than TOMATO!

Spiced Tomato Basil Soup

Serves: 8


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large carrot, chopped

1 leek, chopped (white part only)

1 large scallion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

5 large ripe tomatoes

4 cups veggie stock

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish


1. In a soup pot, heat the oil; add the carrots, leek, scallion and garlic.  Sauté, stirring

often, for 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, veggie stock, salt, basil, thyme, pepper and bay leaf.

3. Bring to a boil, then lower heat.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Remove bay leaf.  Puree soup using an immersion blender until smooth (for an

even smoother consistency, strain through a sieve).

5. Garnish with basil.

Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories per serving: 60

There are unlimited ways to add tomatoes to your meals.  Spark up some creativity and let me know how you use tomatoes.  Enjoy Fresh Tomato Day!

Energy Drinks – Are They Safe?

March 30, 2012

Our lives grow busier each day.  We live in a society where sleeping 7-9 hours a night is not an option, except for the weekends, and even those fill up fast with family functions, kids sports game, or catching up on the weeks work load.  It is no surprise that the country has taken such a liking to the promises made by energy drinks.

There is a huge variety on the market, but the typical energy drink contains some ratio of guarana, taurine, caffeine, cyanocobalamin, citric acid and ginseng.  These controversial ingredients are typically harmless when taken in low dosages, but when consumed in excess, there can be consequences.  The FDA does not regulate the caffeine in energy drinks.  The FDA limit for sodas is 65 mg for 12 fluid ounces.  In comparison, 6 ounces of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, whereas a tiny bottle of “5-Hour Energy” ( roughly 2 ounces) has 138 mg of caffeine.

Like many things, moderation is key when it comes to energy drinks.  The biggest problem with these beverages and people’s health is over consumption and abuse.  Having one every once and awhile is not likely to affect your health in terms of the caffeine.  If you have diabetes and have problems keeping your blood sugar levels in check, it is best to avoid these beverages because of the high sugar content.  If you find yourself consuming energy drinks as your only means to stay energized, it could be problematic.  Side effects have been reported of feeling out of control, dizziness, having energy “crashes,” and in some cases, even heart palpitations.

There is also the growing problem of people mixing energy drinks and alcohol.  Mixing food or beverage items high in caffeine, which is going to increase heart rate, with alcohol, which is a depressant that lowers your heart rate, can be a deadly combination.  Since most of these beverages are being marketed to children and teens, it is certainly an added concern.

The take home message is to try and manage your energy levels using more natural techniques.  Rework your schedule to get some extra sleep during the week, stay hydrated and choose healthy foods that keep your body feeling well, and in turn feeling awake.  If the occasional energy drink finds its way into your hands, so be it; however try to moderate consumption of these beverages.

Do you rely on these energy drinks to keep you going?  Make a commitment today to try healthier alternatives.

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