February – Heart Health Month

Posted: February 15, 2012 by amygilman in Nutrition Conversations

Make this Valentine’s Day a healthy day for your heart!  February is American Heart Month, a time to encourage long term changes for all the hearts in your family.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death in theUnited States.  About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event.  The chance of developing coronary heart disease can be reduced by taking steps to prevent and control factors that put people at greater risk.

One of the most effective ways to prevent heart disease is through diet. (Of course, not smoking, exercising regularly, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check are also important in keeping heart disease at bay.) The key to creating a healthy lifestyle is to make it fun.  This month, try to say no to sugar-laden Valentine’s treats and switch to heart healthy ideas for your Valentine’s Day celebrations.

  • Here are some nutritious, easy, and delicious ideas that will keep the whole family happy and their hearts healthy.
  • Indulge in Sweets with Benefits.  Make your own heart-healthy desserts by dipping fresh and dried fruits in dark chocolate, rich in antioxidants protecting our heart. Or send a fruit basket to your loved one that has natural sugar as well as healthy nutrients instead of sending sweets with added sugars.
  • If your children are having a Valentine’s Day party at their school or day care, instead of sending candies, consider mini-boxes of raisins, mini-bags of pretzels, pencils or stickers as tokens of their friendly affection.
  • Plan a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner or a month-long celebration with heart-healthy foods that celebrate your love. Devise a menu of your own, trying to incorporate heart-healthy foods, or use my sample menu.

Sweetheart Menu:

Parmesan Spinach Cakes (recipe below)
Roasted Pecan Salmon (recipe below)
Steamed brown rice
Medley of roasted  vegetables
Yogurt Parfait (recipe below)
Glass of red wine

  • If you go to a restaurant to celebrate, check out healthydiningfinder.com to find heart-healthy meal options at restaurants in your area.
  • Sharing is caring – if you do go out for a romantic dinner date, order one entrée to share. Many restaurant servings are enough for two – splitting will keep you from overdoing it.
  • Take it slow – if you were gifted a luxurious box of chocolates from your sweetie, stick it in the fridge or freezer and enjoy in moderation over several weeks.
  • Go fish – did you know for ideal health you should eat fish (particularly oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or tuna) twice a week?
  • Try something new – dare yourself to try a new fruit or vegetable. Next time you’re at the store pick up something you’ve never made before. Many grocery stores have free recipe cards in the produce section or just type the food into your favorite search engine.
  • Rekindle an old flame – try preparing one of your less-favorite foods in a new way. Not crazy about bananas? Try grilling one for dessert. Pop grapes in the freezer for mini-ice pop snacks

Parmesan Spinach Cakes (adapted from eatingwell.com)
Yield:  4 servings, 2 spinach cakes each


12 ounces fresh spinach

1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, or low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

2 large eggs, beaten

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Pulse spinach in three batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add ricotta (or cottage cheese), Parmesan, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper; stir to combine.

3. Coat 8 cups of the muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the spinach mixture among the 8 cups (they will be very full).

4. Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto a clean cutting board or large plate. Serve warm, sprinkled with more Parmesan, if desired.

Nutritional Information:  Per serving: 141 calories, 13 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated, 3 g monounsaturated, 123 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber; 456 mg sodium, 560 mg potassium.

Roasted Pecan Salmon (adapted from medicinenet.com)

Yield: 4 servings


4 salmon filets (4-6 oz. each)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 teaspoon parsley
Wedges of fresh lemon


1. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on baking sheet.

2. Combine mustard and honey, brush on top of salmon.

3. Mix topping of breadcrumbs, nuts, and parsley and sprinkle over salmon.

4. Bake at 400 degrees 10-15 minutes or until flaky. Serve with wedges of fresh lemon.

Nutritional Information:  Per serving: 265 calories, 29 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat 1.6 g saturated fat, 4.7 g monounsaturated fat, 4.3 g polyunsaturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 0.4 g fiber, 282 g sodium.

Yogurt Parfait (adapted from medicinenet.com)

Yield: Makes 1 parfait


1/8 cup fresh fruit (such as berries, sliced peaches, etc.)
1/8 cup low-fat or regular yogurt (flavor of your choice)
1/8 cup low-fat granola


1. Layer the different ingredients in a parfait glass and repeat layers.

Nutritional Information: per parfait: 160 calories, 5 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 2.6 g fiber, 80 mg sodium.


The VB M.I.A.

Posted: September 12, 2011 by The Vegetarian Barbarian in Uncategorized

As you may or may not have noticed – the blog has been silent for a while. We hope to start being more active soon. Amy recently concluded her Dietetic Internship and is currently “heads-down” in the books studying for the R.D. exam. We’ll have more insightful, useful and practical information out to the web soon enough. Stay tuned!

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


On special occasions, my family usually gets together for a big breakfast. Now that I have diabetes, I’m not sure what I can eat. Waffles, pastries, omelets, bacon, or what? What are the best items I should choose?”


Breakfast is a great way to get together with family in an informal way.  With a big family get-together usually comes high calorie and high fat foods.  There are ways that you can visit with family, consume a hearty breakfast, and manage your diabetes all at once.  Of course an overall healthy diet consists of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, good fats and lean proteins.  Fueling up your body with healthy foods will help to manage diabetes.  Fueling up on high calorie/high fat foods may make you feel sluggish, may cause weight gain and may not be ideal for controlling blood sugars.  However, it sounds like your family breakfasts are only for certain occasions.  In this scenario if your favorite foods are the items you listed (waffles, pastries, omelets, bacon), try eating these only on special occasions AND try to stick to the portion size.

Here are some Healthy Breakfast Tips

  1. At A Restaurant:  If your breakfast occasions are at a restaurant, plan your carbohydrates out for the entire day and stick to an actual portion size.  For example if you order waffles, you may receive an enormous waffle that could be equivalent to 4 servings of carbohydrates (1 serving of carbohydrates is 15 grams, this waffle could potentially equal 60g).   60g at breakfast may be an acceptable number for you, but planning your carbohydrate intake for the rest of the day will help ensure that you do not exceed your daily allotment. A dietitian can help you figure out how many carbohydrates you need per day and per meal.  For additional resources there is a book you can order for about $3 called Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes (1). It is a great resource for meal planning and carbohydrate counting.
  2. Breakfast at Home:  If the family breakfasts are at your home or a family member, you may have more control over how breakfast items are prepared.  For example, you can try substituting rolls or toast made from white flour with whole grain rolls or toast, which will add more fiber.  Check out this website for diabetes friendly recipes such as Nutmeg Pancakes with Lemon Zest and Berries (2).
  3. Watch the Sodium:  Ordering a side order of bacon or pork sausage can drastically increase your sodium intake and send you over your daily allotment for sodium.  Look for reduced sodium and reduced fat sources.  Canadian bacon and lean ham are lower in fat than pork sausage.  Stick to portion sizes here.  A slice or two of bacon is the limit.
  4. Fruit:  By cutting back on your portion sizes of the typical breakfast items, you can add fresh fruit to help fill you up, provide you with vitamins and antioxidants and may help slow blood sugar spikes compared to fruit juices.
  5. Omelets:  Omelets can be a healthy dish depending on the ingredients that go into them.  Add spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms or just about any vegetable you like.  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest that up to 1 egg per day is acceptable and will not raise cholesterol (3).  Use egg whites and one whole egg to make the omelet.

The moral of this story is to try to stick to a healthy diet and kick off each day with a breakfast that has lots of vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and lean protein and save the high calorie/high fat breakfasts for a special occasion.  Consider counting carbohydrates to help keep blood sugars stabilized.


  1. http://www.amazon.com/Choose-Your-Foods-Exchange-Diabetes/dp/0880913770.  Accessed May 8, 2011.
  2. http://www.americandiabetes.com/diabetic-recipes/breakfast-brunch.  Accessed May 8, 2011.
  3. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/Chapter3.pdf.  Accessed May 8, 2011.

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:



I’ve been trying to increase my salad intake and am not sure about what type of dressing to choose.  Could you give me some suggestions for salad dressings that are acceptable for someone with diabetes?”


Eating a salad every day (or most) days is a simple and easy food habit to commit to.  They are easy to make and help to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.  Good for you for increasing your salad intake. 

I have a few tricks to try to add flavor to your salad without all of the fat and calories from regular salad dressings.

  • Try making your own dressing:  This recipe is from my friends at CitySprouts.  It is a Tangy Fresh Herb Salad Dressing.  Using fresh herbs you will get bursts of flavor while using herbs that promote good health.  This recipe is only 15 calories per serving and packed with flavor. 

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP (packed) chopped fresh basil
1 TBSP (packed) chopped fresh chives
1 TBSP (packed) chopped fresh dill
1 TBSP (packed) chopped fresh mint
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly cracked pepper
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and uniform in color. Add salt and pepper.

  • Oil and vinegar:  Mixing oil and vinegar is also a simple solution which won’t give you all of the preservatives that are in a bottled dressing.  There are so many different types of vinegars to choose from (such as balsamic, sherry, champagne, and red wine to name a few).  Alternate vinegars so that you don’t get bored.  You only need a small amount of oil for this dressing.
  • Top with a protein:  On most occasions I will top my salad off with a “runny” protein such as a vegetarian chili in place of a dressing.  Putting a hot food on the salad changes up the texture and adds flavor.  Here are some other options for proteins; chop up a hamburger, ground turkey or chicken and brown rice (or a sweet potato).  Adding hot dishes to your salad will also give you a complete meal (which includes a protein, a starchy carbohydrate, a non-starchy carbohydrate, and some good fat).
  • Pre-made: If you prefer to buy a pre-made dressing from the supermarket, look for dressings with the least amount of ingredients with words that you can pronounce and check the nutrition facts panel.  Usually a “low-fat” dressing will contain more sugar. 

I hope these tips help you in your endeavor to finding the perfect salad dressing!

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I was recently diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes and was wondering how strict my diet really needs to be?  Does every meal and snack need to be completely sugar and carb free?”


When newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes, one may require changes in eating patterns and lifestyle such as improving health through healthy food choices and increasing physical activity.  The goal would not be to completely cut out all carbohydrates, rather improve the quality of the carbohydrate. 

Typically, a Registered Dietitian or a Certified Diabetes Educator would sit down with a client newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes and would calculate how many grams of carbohydrates that person would need in a day (because carbohydrates are needed for energy). 

How Does It Work?

The next step would be to distribute the carbohydrates evenly throughout the day to help keep blood sugars stabilized. 

  • For example, let’s say a dietitian calculated that the client needs 225g of carbohydrates per day (calculation is based on a percentage of total calorie needs; your carbohydrate needs may be higher or lower). 
  • To distribute:  First decide how many meals and snacks are consumed throughout the day.  Let’s use 3 meals and 2 snacks for this example.  This is helpful for better blood sugar control because typically it allows a person to eat smaller, more frequent meals with a consistent amount of carbohydrates throughout the day.  The more consistent you can be with your carbohydrate intake, the happier you will make your pancreas (this is the organ that is supposed to produce insulin when you ingest carbohydrates).  Now to calculate:  one option would be to give a larger amount of carbohydrates to the 3 meals (60g each), then a smaller amount for the two snacks (one snack at 25g and the other snack at 20g).   You could also distribute the 225g evenly for each of the 5 small meals, which would give you 45g at each sitting.  A dietitian can help you figure out the best option and meal plan for you.
  • Type of carbohydrate:  The quality of the carbohydrate may make a difference.  Meaning, there are some sources of carbohydrates that contain vitamins/nutrients and fiber (such as brown rice, sweet potatoes) and there are some sources of carbohydrates that may be empty calories (such as candy, pastries).  Yes both of these sources are digested and turn into glucose and wait for the insulin to move it out of the blood and into the cells. However, good health depends on what you put into your body, so why not strive for maximum health benefits and go for the sources with the vitamins/nutrients and fiber.  In other words, get some bang for your buck.

Now that you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you have an opportunity to learn how to control you blood sugar levels by keeping it within a certain range (work with your doctor to figure out what your range is).  The closer you get to this range, the lower your risk may be for developing diabetes and/or long-term health problems associated with diabetes. 

I wish you much health and happiness.  Remember, this carbohydrate counting and distributing thing may seem overwhelming at first, but stick with it and it will make sense over time.

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


On my lunch breaks I go to a sandwich shop.  I usually get a large deluxe sandwich with a side of potato salad or coleslaw.  Now that I have diabetes, I’m trying to modify my lunch order.  Can you make some suggestions of what to order?”


Kudos to you for taking an interest in modifying your lunch to help manage diabetes.  Eating out at a sandwich shop can be inexpensive and convenient however it may not always be healthy.  There may be many options that pack on the sodium and fat, which as you know is not an optimal situation for people with diabetes.  As an informed consumer, you can make healthier choices and still enjoy the price and the convenience of the sandwich shop.

Here are some tips for making healthy choices at a sandwich shop:

  • Convert from less healthy choices to healthier options:
    • Instead of high-fat meat such as ham, tuna (with a lot of mayo), bacon, meatballs or steak, try ordering lean meat such as chicken breast, turkey breast, tuna (without may), or a veggie sandwich.
    • Substitute low-fat cheese for regular cheese.
    • Choose whole grain bread instead of white or take one slice off and eat it as open-faced (depending on how many carbohydrates you need at each meal).
    • Substitute fresh fruit or a garden salad for the side of potato salad or coleslaw.
  • Prepare ahead: Many restaurants may have nutritional content on their website or in a pamphlet that you can pick up at the location.  Take a look at the nutrition facts to find optimal choices such as low fat, low calorie, and/or low sodium.  Sometimes a seemingly innocent little sandwich may appear healthy from a picture or a description, but may be a landmine of fat with some mayo-based dressing.  Let’s look at the some of the breads offered at Subway Restaurants (as an example) and figure out how to analyze the nutrient information.
    • 6” Italian white bread (calories-200, total fat-2g, sodium-390 mg, carbohydrate-38g, fiber-1g)
    • 6” 9-Grain wheat bread (calories-210, total fat-2g, sodium-410mg, carbohydrate-41g, fiber-4g)
    • 6” Roasted Garlic (calories-230, total fat-2.5g, sodium-1360mg, carbohydrate-45g, fiber-2g)
    • 6” Hearty Italian bread (calories-220, total fat-2g, sodium-390 mg, carbohydrate-41g, fiber-2g)
    • 6” Honey Oat (calories-260, total fat-3g, sodium-430mg, carbohydrate-49g, fiber-5g)

Source:  www.subway.com

The first thing that jumps out at me here is that the 6” Roasted Garlic has 1360mg of sodium.  Raise the red flag here as the current recommendations from the American Heart Association are to limit your daily                              sodium intake to 1500mg (Source:  www.heart.org) so this would be almost a day’s worth of sodium at one meal (and that is  just from the bread).  Next let’s look at fiber.  The two options for the highest fiber are the 6”         Honey Oat (5g ) and the 6” 9-Grain wheat (4g).  Since the Honey Oat has more calories, carbohydrates and fat, the optimal solution here may be to go with 9-Grain wheat bread.

  • Portion control: Portion control is important with sandwiches and subs as many places will serve enough food to feed all of your coworkers.  A suggestion would be to eat half of the sandwich and save the other half for the afternoon (about 3 hours later).  By cutting your portion in half PLUS eating three hours later, you may find you have better control over your blood sugars.  Sometimes if we eat a huge meal at noon and then nothing until 7pm, the blood sugars may spike and drop to extremes.
  • Drink water at your meal: This will help keep you full and is a much better option than soda.  Soda is a huge source of hidden calories and sugar.  (Note:  some populations may be required to drink in between meals and not during meals, such as those who have undergone bariatric surgery).
  • Special order: If nothing on the menu seems healthy, ask for something special.  Many restaurants will be accommodating for these types of requests.  Order a sandwich with whole grain bread, a small amount of turkey, load up the vegetables and top it off with a tiny bit of olive oil.
  • Eat mindfully: The last tip I will leave you with is to always be present while you are eating.  Try not to watch TV or work on your computer when eating.  Eat slowly and aim to chew your food about 20 times per bite.  This will help you learn the body’s cues for telling you when you are full.  Mindful eating also relaxes you, which may be better for digestion and may make you feel more satisfied.

Thank you for the question and I’m so happy to hear that you are making changes for a healthier you!

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I have heard I should avoid fruit juice since I have diabetes.  What about vegetable juices?  Can I have tomato juice and other vegetable juices?”


We all know that vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.  Many Americans report not getting the recommended amount of vegetable servings per day which is about 5-8.  Vegetable juice may make it easier to reach that goal.  The question is; are there any repercussions?  Well…many vegetable juices may be high added sugar, sodium or “other” flavors which may elevate blood sugars and sodium levels (increased blood sodium levels may lead to hypertension, plus “other” flavors may not be defined and we could be taking a chance of ingesting more sugar or some other substance and not know it).  On the other hand, you may be able to find a juice that is 100% vegetable juice which may provide fiber, vitamin C, and other nutrients (depending on the type of vegetable).

A suggestion would be to aim to get most of your vegetables in their “whole”, natural state and drink the vegetable juice as a back-up plan.  A “whole” food takes longer for the body to digest, which is great for people with diabetes because the sugar content is released slowly into the bloodstream.  A vegetable juice is no longer “whole” (it’s processed) and may spike your blood sugar faster than a “whole” food item.  Also, the slower the food item digests; the more vitamins and nutrients that will enter the bloodstream; another plus for whole vegetables.

Making your own vegetable juice with a juicer might be a good option for you.  This will allow you to choose vegetables that are lower in sugar content.  A quick rule of thumb; vegetables that are grown above ground are low in sugar while those that grow below ground are high in sugar (i.e.; beets, carrots, yams to name a few).

If you do choose to buy vegetable juice, try to be aware of your serving size compared to the serving size on the nutrition facts panel.  If the serving size is 4oz (which might be about 15-20g carbohydrates), then make sure you are not chugging down tall glasses full of the juice all day long.  Monitoring your blood sugar levels after consuming vegetable juices will also help you determine if they are right for you.

Thank you for the question.


  1. http://www.diabetes.org/
  2. http://www.lillydiabetes.com

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I am writing on behalf of my sister. She does NOT cook.  She is living alone and has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.  She lives mainly on microwave dinners and convenience foods.  She is not open to learning to cook.  Do you have any helpful hints for someone like this?”


I can certainly provide tips for finding healthier choices for convenience foods.  However, when someone is diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it may be a good time to evaluate the current lifestyle and think about what is important in life and if there is anything worth changing.  It is no secret that processed foods (i.e. microwave dinners, convenience foods) contain a lot of fat, sodium, calories, and fast-digesting carbohydrates (not the kind someone with pre-diabetes would want).   They also contain chemicals and ingredients that many of us cannot even pronounce.  These chemicals and unknown ingredients may have a big effect on our over-all health.  Whole, un-processed foods in their natural state are usually the key ingredients to a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, I understand that we are all living very busy lives and it would be handy to have some quick meal ideas.  Here are some tips:

  1. Reduce Salt intake:   If you know you will have a microwave meal for dinner, try to cut back on the salt intake during the rest of the day.
  2. Invest in a juicer and make smoothies with fresh vegetables: Most of these machines will come with ideas for smoothie recipes and it is a quick way to get a healthy meal in – especially when on-the-go.  Try blending spinach, kale, lemon, ginger, cucumber, peanut butter (natural, no salt-added) with soy milk (if this blend sounds disgusting to you, play around with other vegetables – there are millions of recipes out there).
  3. Incorporate beans into the diet: Canned beans are quick and easy.  All you have to do is rinse them really well (which gets the gas-forming substance off of them) and throw them in a salad or any numerous amounts of dishes.  Beans will provide protein, fiber and antioxidants.  Bean salads are so quick to make.  I usually take 4 different types of beans (or, even easier, the stores sell mixed canned beans), a pepper, garlic, some form of acid (lately I’ve been using brown rice vinegar), an oil (sometimes safflower oil) and mix it all together and you have a lovely bean salad.  If you’ve read my posts in the past, you know we like it spicy in my household so I will also add some siracha (Asian hot sauce).  The point is, bean salads are quick, yet packed with nutrients and there is no cooking involved!
  4. Consider microwaving vegetables:   Broccoli will cook very nicely in the microwave.  Place a little bit of water in a container, add the broccoli florets and microwave.  Cooking times will vary depending on the microwave, but it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes or so to get the broccoli to a texture that you like.
  5. Drink a lot of water:   Water helps rid of the body of toxins and waste products – this is helpful for those that are consuming a lot of processed foods.

Here is a sample meal plan that does not involve any cooking!  This may give you an idea of how to choose healthier, lower sodium options throughout the day before you get to the microwave dinner at night.  Remember, this is a “sample” meal plan and your caloric and carbohydrate needs may be higher or lower.

Quick picks 1-Day Sample Menu
Meal 1  7:00am 1 – 8oz cup Nonfat greek yogurt 

¼ cup granola

¼ cup sliced strawberries

Meal 2  10:00am Option 1: Carnation Instant Breakfast  (CIB) Shake (try blending in a vegetable such as spinach) 


Option 2: Try a healthy recipe from the new juicer you just purchased

Meal 3  1:00pm ½ cup Four-bean Salad 

1 apple

1 cup baby carrots

Meal 4  4:00pm 1oz raw almonds (about 20) 

1 medium-size orange

Meal 5  7:00pm Microwave meal (choose a low sodium option)


Thank you for the question.  I hope you take this time to invest in yourself and learn about all the wonderful ways to eat healthy foods without hours of prep work in the kitchen.

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I have a very big issue when it comes to having diabetes and that is I do not eat vegetables.  I have tried.  I want to control my diabetes and be around to raise my young children.  What suggestions do you have to add vegetables to my diet?”


Welcome to the “Vegetarian Barbarian” where vegetables are my “specialty”, so to speak.  I do eat a lot of vegetables.  But, I must tell you, I would rather stick a fork in my eye than eat food without flavor.  Perhaps raw or steamed vegetables is not your cup of tea.  No problem… This gives you an opportunity to find new ways to make vegetables an enjoyable part of your day.

Here are some tips:

  1. Flavor vegetables with spices. Choose from a wide array of flavors – Indian, Italian, etc.  You can find spices in your regular grocery store or, to find some really fun flavors like BBQ 9000 go to penzeys.com.  It is a fantastic spice store/website.  My husband made broccolini (similar to broccoli, but smaller florets and long thin stems) this weekend with BBQ 9000 and the dish has a great smokey flavor to it.
  2. Look to vegetarian sources for tons of ideas for making vegetables flavorful. Do a google search for vegetarian recipes or find a vegetarian magazine (Whole Foods sells a few of them).  I subscribe to Vegetarian Times magazine (vegetariantimes.com) and have found some pretty tasty recipes that are also quick to prepare and packed with vegetables.
  3. Check out nutrition websites for children such as superkidsnutrition.com. A website like this will showcase recipes that are easy to make, the kids can get involved in preparing it, and it may be a good intro into veggies for you too.
  4. Add vegetables to dishes that you love (disguise them). Wait, don’t leave this article yet, hear me out.  For example – if you love macaroni and cheese, consider adding something such as butternut squash (puree it so it has a smooth cheesy look and texture) or pureed cauliflower.
  5. Buy Local and Fresh. Buying locally grown vegetables may play in big part in taste and freshness.  If you are eating vegetables that are traveling from another state or another country, then you may be missing out on flavor (and possibly losing nutrients).  Try looking into a local farmer’s market or sometimes a larger chain grocery store might have a section of produce that was grown by local farmers in your area.    Check out localharvest.org for more info on where to find farmer’s markets in your area (click on the “Farms” tab at the top of the page).
  6. Try using different types of oils to cook with. By branching out and using a variety of oils, you will get different flavors and hopefully prevent boredom.  Try safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, or olive oil (there are many more oils to choose from).  Using a small amount of oil can go a long way in a dish and for people who smother their veggies in butter, they may save a few calories. Here is a quick frozen spinach recipe that includes sesame oil:

Ingredients:  water, one 16oz bag of frozen spinach, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, ground black pepper

Directions: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a pot, add the frozen spinach and a tablespoon of sesame oil.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Drain the spinach.  Add spinach to a bowl and add ½ tablespoon of sesame oil, 1                   tablespoon of sesame seeds, black pepper to taste – mix together well and Enjoy!  I also add spicy ingredients such as siracha (asian hot sauce).

I applaud your efforts for wanting to change your eating pattern.  Vegetables have so many benefits – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, to name a few.  If your children are not eating vegetables, this may be a good way for everyone to try new recipes together.  Maybe if they see you eating vegetables, they will want to as well.  Good luck on your new vegetable dish journey…

I am a Nutrition Editor at Foodpicker.org, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I was recently told by my doctor I have pre-diabetes and that I need to lose weight, eat right, and get my sugar levels down.  On a 12 hour fast, my glucose level was 73 yet my A1C was 6.1%.  If my glucose is low, why is my A1c still high?  What can I do?”


The A1c relates to your blood glucose levels over a period of two to three months.  It is measured as a percentage over time.  Healthcare professionals call it glycosylated hemoglobin, which means that sugar (glucose) sticks to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells.  Here is a chart which shows you the A1c% along with the associated average blood glucose number (courtesy of http://www.diabetes.org).


According to the chart above, your average blood glucose may be about 126mg/dL.   Individual values may vary.  It is important to recognize that everyone is different and your doctor may set an A1c target for you depending on certain variables (i.e.; age, family history of diabetes, and various other factors).

You may find that your blood glucose levels are out of target at different times of the day.  Your doctor may have specific goals for your glucose levels when you wake, before meals, and after meals. You may also have periods of hypoglycemia (usually defined as blood glucose level below 70mg/dL).  You may want to ask your doctor about testing your blood glucose levels at different times to get a better understanding of when your highest levels are.  This may be very helpful to you (and to a dietitian, if you are seeing one) to tweak your current meal plan and reduce large spikes in your blood sugar.

The great thing is that the prescription that your doctor wrote to you:  “lose weight, eat right, and get my sugar levels down” is something that YOU can control.  Now it’s time to turn that into a prescription that you want for yourself.  When it is something that YOU want, you will see changes.

Good luck to you in your new diet and lifestyle adventures.  Please continue to ask questions for more guidance on your journey.