The goodness of eggs

Easter is almost here.  At  this time of year eggs are plentiful and on sale in the grocery stores.  The good news is that eggs are no longer considered dietary villains.

Eggs have gotten a bad reputation because the yolks are an appreciable source of cholesterol, clocking in at approximately 180 mg per yolk.   In the past people were cautioned to limit total daily cholesterol to no more than 300 mg.

The latest version of the Dietary Guidelines, however, has done away with this limit.  After weeding through considerable research, the reviewers for the guidelines found that cholesterol from food is no longer a threat to our heart health.  A person’s genetic makeup has more influence on blood cholesterol than dietary cholesterol.

Good news for egg lovers!

One more point.  Saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol.  Thankfully, eggs are low in saturated fat.  The advice still remains to keep sources of sat fat low.  Foods high in sat fat include sausage, bacon, pizza, cheese, and full-fat dairy.

Enjoy dyeing and eating those Easter eggs!


Stocking the kitchen for quick meals

Is this a common dinner scenario? The kids just got home from their afters chool event, mom and dad arrived late from work, and the dog is barking at the door. Everyone is hungry. Will dinner be take-out fried chicken, burgers, or boxed macaroni and cheese? None of the above if the pantry holds a selection of nutritious foods to make meal preparation easy and satisfying.

Start with pantry items.

  • Whole grains including brown rice, barley, quinoa, and couscous come in handy. Choose quick-cooking varieties for convenience. Whole grain breads, pitas, and pastas are other grain ideas.
  • Canned versions of dried beans and lentils are good for salad additions and in roll-ups or casseroles.  Rinse first to clear out extra sodium.
  • Other canned items include low sodium soups and broths, fruit, tomato products, and veggies.
  • Canned meats, sardines, tuna, and salmon can be added to casseroles, grilled sandwiches, and salads.
  • Nuts and nut butters add protein and good fats to meals and snacks. Seeds and their oils along with olive and canola oils also contribute health fats.
  • Both sweet and white potatoes are quick to prepare in the microwave.
  • Seasonings are important for adding flavor. Garlic and onion powders (not salt), Italian herbs, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, wine vinegars, and low-sodium soy sauce are just a few ideas.
  • Fresh onions and garlic have their place, also, in the well-stocked kitchen.

Next consider the fridge.

  • Low or no-fat dairy items such as yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and hard cheeses add protein and are great as toppings or casseroles additions.
  • Fresh greens including romaine, radicchio, endive, turnip tops and spinach make great salads and sides.
  • Baby carrots, celery, cucumbers, and sweet peppers can satisfy hungry kids as a snack or pre-meal treat.
  • Eggs can be made into an omelet with potatoes and other vegetables, or used as a base for a casserole, or just scrambled with chopped meat for a quick, nutritious and inexpensive meal. (And, eating one egg a day is fine for most folks.)

Don’t forget the freezer. Besides meats, other items are helpful to have on hand.

  • Frozen fruit and vegetables of all types, even diced onion and green peppers, are available.
  • Fish in individual servings are quick to prepare. Some need to be thawed during the day in the fridge. Choose those without breading to reduce calories and fat. No fish sticks, please.
  • Veggie burgers are a quick fix, too, and available in many flavors.  I like the Dr. Praegers brand.  (Disclosure: I have no connection to this company.)

In general, look for no-salt or low-salt varieties of canned goods and pick fruits canned in water or their own juice. Go for grains that list a whole grain as the first ingredient. Be aware of expiration dates on all food items, and place recently purchased items behind those already in the pantry. For more tips, visit Cooking Light and Today’s Dietitian.

Healthy Super Bowl Eats

Is everyone ready for Super Bowl 50 when the Broncos battle the Panthers? No? Fortunately, there still is time to get menus in order. After all, what is a football gathering without food?

And the good news is that folks can still enjoy some of their favorites while adding nutritious options to their plates.

If appetizers are the fare, remember that many small bites can add up to big calories. Choose wisely, maybe concentrating on those foods that you don’t usually eat. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Avocados are popular now due to their healthy monounsaturated fat content.  These make a great dip or spread. Cooking Light  has some tasty suggestions for making any kind of guacamole that you desire.
  • Homemade party dips made with sour cream or salad dressings are often served at football parties.  For extra flavor and crunch add minced green onions, finely diced water chestnuts, or sweet peppers.
  • An easy cracker spread can be made with a square of cream cheese topped with a favorite jam or jelly.
  • Low fat bean spreads are another option and are great whether combined with several ingredients or with mashed beans simply topped with layers of low fat shredded cheese and salsa.
  • Don’t forget about hummus!  Either with raw veggies or pita bread and chips, this is a yummy offering.
  • Of course, the reliable fruit and vegetable trays are easy to prepare and offer healthy variety.
  • Want something hot? How about Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas? Or, Sloppy Joes.
  • Speaking of hot, chili is a favorite for many and can be made healthier with ground round, ground lean turkey, or chicken, or by making a vegetarian variety with additional beans in place of meat. Try this crockpot version.
  • To top it all off with something sweet, brownies are always a crowd pleaser. For a different taste sensation, try a recipe with cherry preserves.

Enjoy the game and may the best team win!



Healthy holiday treats

We are smack in the middle of the holiday season.  And special holiday treats are part of the season’s charm. Everyone looks forward to special goodies. But these foods often come with a high calorie punch. Here are a few tips for creating healthier versions.

  • Use low-fat dairy. Whole milk products are sources of saturated fat. Yes, fat is not the villain is once was.  But one can overdo it. Using low-fat, skim milk, fat-free evaporated milk, and fat-free sweetened condensed milk can yield as mouth-watering a product as full-fat dairy. This is also true for the low-fat versions of sour cream. Plain Greek yogurt is a tasty substitute for sour cream in twice-baked potatoes and casseroles. I have used fat-free yogurt to replace half of the fat in coffee cake recipes with pleasing results.
  • Substitute egg whites for yolks. I have nothing against whole eggs. There is research that indicates healthy people can enjoy eggs several times a week with no ill effects. But at this time of year, we can go way over our allotment with all the egg-containing goodies around. With that in mind, two egg whites can be used in place of a whole egg, or use the egg substitutes in the dairy case.
  • Replace chocolate chips with dried fruit. Raisins, chopped dates, and cranberries offer flavors of their own and add a chewy texture. If you must add the chips, reduce the amount or add mini chips to spread the flavor throughout the product.
  • Create healthy dips to replace the sour cream types. Hummus, salsa, corn relish, and bean dips are more healthful choices than sour cream versions.
  • Watch those portions. Eat half of the special treat and share the other half or save for later. This is a helpful tactic during the holidays or at any special event.
  • Choose nuts for a healthy snack. Although high in fat, nuts contain fiber and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. An appropriate serving size for nuts is one-quarter cup.

Most importantly, enjoy time with family and friends during this holiday season.


Peanut powder

A few months ago I made an unplanned, spontaneous purchase at the grocery store.  Yes, this is not recommended–we are all told to stick to a list.  But I was feeling a bit sassy that day.

My extra purchase was a jar of powdered peanuts.  I had read quite a bit of hype about this product and wanted to see if powdered peanuts warranted this reputation.

The product is just that–powdered peanuts. This particular brand has no added anything and claims to be non-GMO.  So far, so good.  It tastes dry right out of the jar, of course, being powder.  It has a peanut taste but without the pizzazz of peanut butter.  The fat has been removed which may account for the flatter taste.

With six grams of protein per two tablespoons, this does offer a way to increase protein by adding the powder to a smoothie, hot or cold cereal, rice cereal squares, or baked goods such as pancakes, breads, or muffins.

So going with my sassy attitude, I decided to make some cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies, at that.  Not knowing what effect the powder would have on my recipe, I decided to be conservative and added only two tablespoons.

Well, the cookies turned out great!  Quite yummy and with a nice mix of peanut butter flavor plus dark chocolate.

If you would like to try he cookies, here is the recipe.

Better Eating Peanut Choco Chip Cookies

  • ½ cup margarine (I used Smart Beat)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs (or equivalent of egg substitute)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3  cups all purpose flour (or use half whole wheat, half all purpose)
  • ½ cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream margarine and sugars till well blended.  Mix in eggs.  Add vanilla and cinnamon, blending well.  In a separate bowl, measure out flour(s), oats, soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Stir ingredients well.  Slowly add to wet ingredients, mixing till well blended.   Add chocolate chips.  Drop by walnut-size spoonfuls onto greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 9 – 10 minutes.  Depending on the size of your “walnuts”  you will have 5 to 6 dozen cookies.

Good Luck!



Healthy eats for Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Can one prepare a delicious dinner and be health conscious at the same time? Absolutely! Here are some ideas.

A well-dressed salad is an eye-catcher and a satisfying beginning to any meal. A mixture of greens, such as spinach, arugula, and romaine create a fine bed for dried cherries or cranberries, chopped walnuts, mandarin oranges, and sliced red onions. Toss with flavored vinegrettes or wine vinegar and olive oil. This dressing will compliment the greens and not overpower their flavor.

As a side or salad, one of my favorites is broccoli slaw with a mix of fat-free plain yogurt and a favorite slaw dressing, adding just enough to lightly coat the slaw. This can be made more festive with dried fruit and chopped nuts, also. A tart, diced apple will add even more flavor and texture.

Twice-baked potatoes are a tradition in some households at holiday time. These can be prepared with low-fat versions of sour cream and cream cheese and the low-sodium version of chicken or vegetable broth without sacrificing flavor. A sprinkle of paprika before baking will add color, too.

If the family prefers sweet potatoes, try baking these vitamin-packed veggies in the skins instead of the usual high-calorie, high-sugar recipes with marshmallows. Whether mashed or served individually, a little brown sugar and chopped pecans added to the potatoes can make them just as yummy as the higher calorie versions.

Instead of the usual green bean casserole, how about oven roasting Brussels sprouts, squash, or green beans? Both white and sweet potatoes would take well to roasting, too.

On to the turkey. How about basting the turkey with broth or juice? Orange, apple, cranberry—these all add great flavor. Or, make several slits in the skin and tuck in favorite seasonings. Garlic, thyme, and rosemary are just a few that work well with fowl. For the stuffing fans, lighten it up a bit by omitting the butter in the recipe and moistening the bread with low-sodium broth instead. Try using half whole wheat bread cubes and again, add some herbs for flavor. If the recipe calls for sausage, give the lower fat turkey sausage a go. Brown and drain sausage first before adding to the bread mixture.

And dessert! Yes, this part of the meal can be a tad more nutritious, too! For example, the traditional pumpkin pie turns out perfectly yummy using fat free sweetened condensed milk instead of the full fat version. The typical recipe with 2 eggs can be altered to 1 egg and two egg whites. To reduce the fat further, make the pie with a graham cracker or gingersnap cookie crust. Or try Frozen Pumpkin Mousse for a twist on the traditional.

There are many ways to make nutritious and tasty additions to the holiday meal that the family will enjoy.

Food safety during a power outage

We lost power this past week.  The house went silent and dim three times in 24 hours.  Two of these outages happened in the wee hours of the morning of which we were aware only because of the doorbell ringing when the power went back on.

And, of course, the fridge stopped running and cooling the food that I had just purchased at the grocery store.

This meant that I had to dump the fresh eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, packaged pre-washed greens, cream-based salad dressings, any leftovers that I had planned to eat for lunch and some thawed frozen food.  I was able to keep the juices, fresh fruits and veggies, and condiments such as mustard and ketchup.

Heartbreaking, I know.  Then I was off on another trip to the store to replace what I threw out.

If this ever happens to you, please resist the temptation to keep certain foods that may have been sitting in the fridge at temps above 40 degrees for more than 4 hours.  Between the temps of 40 and 140, bacteria will grow and party.  And you do not want the nasty symptoms, some life-threatening, that the bacteria or their toxins can bring on.  The amount of money that you lose by throwing out the spoiled food is small in comparison to the possible pain and time lost to food poisoning (not to mention medical bills).

For a list of foods that must be tossed and those that can be kept, visit There you will find a list of foods in a handy form that can be printed and taped inside a cupboard door for future reference.

Storm season is upon us.  Take care to make sure your food supply is safe.

Going bananas for banana bread

Bananas ripen so quickly in the summer months.  I often slice them and freeze the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Then I pop the slices into a plastic bag or container and keep in the freezer for future snacks and smoothies.

The other day I decided to make banana bread (even though the thermometer read 92 degrees!). After experimenting a bit in the kitchen with different ingredients, I was rewarded for my efforts with lovely browned loaves of sweet, moist, fragrant bread.

If you like quick breads, give this a try.

Better Eating’s Banana Bread

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs (or equivalent in egg substitute)
  • ¼ cup light olive oil
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray two 8 ½ X 5 inch glass loaf pans with baking spray. Line just the bottom of each dish with wax paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl.   In another bowl combine sugar, eggs, olive oil, buttermilk, and mashed bananas. Mix well. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Slowly add wet ingredients to dry mixture, stirring just until well-moistened. (There will be some lumps.) Pour mixture into the pans, dividing batter equally between the two.
  4.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 to 33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.


Stir in ½ cup chopped nuts and/or ½ cup dark chocolate chips before pouring batter into pans. This may increase baking time.

I prefer Pyrex-type or Corning Ware loaf pans. Metal pans or different sizes can affect baking time, so start checking for doneness before 30 minutes. I have baked one large loaf with this recipe, using an 8 1/2 X 5 inch glass pan, baking for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 325 degrees.


Does grilling meat increase cancer risk?

Summer is here and that means grilling family favorites in the backyard or picnic area. Many people are already aware of the recommendations to wash hands after handling raw meats, to keep fresh food preparation separate from raw meat preparation, and to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. But what about this cancer risk?

Grilling meat is often suggested as a healthy way to prepare beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Cooking these muscle meats at high temperatures, however, may increase one’s intake of heterocyclic amines.  These are breakdown products of creatine, an amino acid found in protein foods.  These chemicals that are linked to cancer can form during any high-heat cooking method including frying. More time on the grill or in the frying pan means more of these chemicals forming in the meat.

Grilling adds another specific danger, moreover, from the smoke and char that forms while meat cooks. As the fat and juices from the meat drip onto hot coals or grill surfaces, other compounds also linked to cancer form and are then carried to the meat in the resulting smoke or flames. The char that is often valued for color and rich flavor also contains these compounds.

Research has shown these compounds to cause cancer in animals, and human studies suggest that the chemicals could be associated with colon and stomach cancers.

Thankfully, there are steps that one can take to reduce risk and still enjoy a Sunday barbecue.

  • Clean the grill with hot, soapy water and a brush to remove previous, cooked-on residue.
  • Trim excess fat or use lean cuts of meats and poultry for grilling. This will reduce flame flares.
  • Marinate meats in a citrus or vinegar-based marinade. Food research shows that marinades reduce the formation of cancer-forming compounds.  And some of the marinades add healthy antioxidants.
  • Precook meats in the microwave before grilling to reduce the time on the grill.  Be sure to throw out the juices that accumulate on the dish–the juice could contain unsafe bacteria. Immediately place the meat on the grill and cook to the proper internal temperature.
  • Slice meats thinner to reduce cooking time. Grill lean meats instead of sausage, brats or fatty cuts of meat.
  • Keep the grill covered. This will reduce fire flare-ups and amounts of char.
  • Turn the meat frequently to further reduce charring. Cut away any charred or burned portions before eating.
  • Be adventurous and grill a greater variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and alternatives to meat, including soy and veggie burgers.

With a little forethought and a watchful eye, the afternoon barbecue can still be a satisfying, delicious, and also healthy food experience. Happy grilling!

Can avatars make us healthier?

I just read an interesting note in the June issue of Success magazine.  Editor Josh Ellis reported on work that was done by Felix Chang at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab concerning the influence of personal avatars–those images some of us create to “be” us online, in games, when messaging, etc.

It appears that people change to be more like their avatars.  For example, people with tall avatars act more confidently than those with shorter figures.  In one study, participants who had their avatars eat carrots actually ate healthier themselves.

Furthermore, study participants exercised more after watching their avatar characters lose weight when exercising on a treadmill.

Thought-provoking?  According to psychologist Albert Bandura, it is the similarity to the image that influences one to change behavior.  The more similar we are, the more likely we are to adopt the behavior of the avatar.

On the other hand, I would think that creating an avatar that eats junk food and plays video games all day would have an unhealthy influence on the individual.  This adoption of  negative behaviors was see by researchers studying college students playing video games.  Good avatars brought out positive behaviors and bad avatars resulted in negative behaviors.

Maybe by creating avatars in our image, in our best image, we might change to be just like them.

What do you think?