5 Minute Lunches

In NYC we have so many food options on every corner.  Come lunch time all the food can be very tempting especially when you walk by the pizzeria, or smell fresh cut french fries, or see a monster panini being pressed.   Even if the salads or fresh sandwiches are appealing to you they often cost upwards of $10.  In order to keep some extra dough in your pocket and take in less calories it’s good to pack your own lunch, and save these more indulgent lunches for once in a while treats.

I’m lucky to sometimes be able to go home for lunch, at which point I can make myself a hot meal.  And the other times I bring food to eat in my office.  Here are two very simple examples of how to make lunch in 5 minutes.

A meal at home:


Pizza is one of my favorite foods, so I like to create it a little bit “healthier” at home so I can indulge frequently!  My pizza is made on a Damascus wrap (these are great and only have 110 calories!) with home-made tomato sauce, 1 ounce of fresh mozzarella, and a sliced Bilinski’s chicken sausage.  I broiled it in the oven until the cheese melted and became bubbly.  Paired with the pizza I served myself a watercress salad topped with carrots, avocado and balsamic vinegar.  Delicious!  This lunch was incredibly satisfying, provided ample protein (chicken sausage & cheese), lots of fiber (wrap & veggies), and some fat for satiety (cheese & avocado).  And the best part was that I cooked it in no time at all!

Next up is lunch in my office:


I made myself a simple sandwich,  on 2 slices of Arnold’s 100% whole wheat bread, one slice topped with 1/4 of an avocado and the other half with a schmear of hummus.  Between the bread is an Amy’s veggie burger, which I cooked in the microwave before making the sandwich.  I also added about a cup or so of watercress.  On the side I had a carrot and a nectarine.  The nectarine was from my CSA delivery, it was so sweet & juicy, and made for a perfect sweet ending to my meal!

FYI: I keep all of my bread in the freezer since I like to have an assortement on hand (english muffins, bagels, pita, bread, etc).  Today, I took 2 slices out of my freezer and made the sandwich on frozen bread, by the time I ate it, the bread was perfect!

You have probably noticed, there are three common foods amongst these lunches: avocado, carrots & watercress.  Read below to learn more about watercress.

Nutrition Tidbit: Watercress

  • Watercress is a leafy vegetable, usually grown in water, that has a slightly peppery taste.
  • I think Watercress is underutilized, especially when considering it’s nutritional value!
  • Watercress is fragile and will last a few days in your fridge if you place the stems in a glass of water
  • The greens are  delicious added to a sandwich or used as a salad base (or you could try topping a cooked pizza with it too!)
  • Nutritional Information:   100 grams (3 cups raw, chopped) provides 11 calories, 0 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, and 2 grams protein
  • 100 grams provides 120 mg of Calcium!  This is 12% of the RDA, and it’s particularly great since watercress contains very few oxalates (limits calcium absorption, common in many green vegetables)
  • Provides 64% DV for vitamin A, 72% DV for vitamin C, 312% RDA for vitamin K, and 12% DV for manganese.
  • Watercress is definitely a nutrient powerhouse and delicious, try it yourself!

Roman Lunches

I’m reverting back to my European trip…

The end of our trip was Rome, which is one of my favorite cities!  The culture, history, food, and architecture is all amazing.  As I have shown through some of my other European posts, I tried to balance out some of my favorite European treats with healthy food, so I could still feel good and keep my energy up.  If I ate pasta & gelato for every meal, I would have loved the taste, but I probably would not have had the energy to do all that we did!

For our first lunch in Rome, we wound up at a touristy restaurant close to the Pantheon, not my ideal culinary experience, but hey we were hungry!  The menu included pizza, pasta & salad.  I was really in the mood for salad, so I chose one with tuna, corn & mozzarella.  I wanted another type of protein, but tuna was all they offered!

SaladThe salad was a great mix of dark greens (radicchio, arugula and mesclun), tomatoes, corn, fresh mozzarella and canned tuna.  Olive oil & vinegar came on the side, which I love since you can control how much goes on.  I ate it all minus some of the cheese (there was a lot!).  All in all, it was a light yet filling meal and made for a good meal to balance out some of my other more “indulgent” ones!

The next day, while meandering through some of the smaller streets of Rome, we found a bustling lunch spot that was actually set in a wine store!

LunchThe restaurant was filled with locals, I think we were the only Americans there!  It was a limited menu, but I was very excited when I saw farro salad on the menu!  I was excited for a dose of whole grains.  My husband and I each decided to get an “appetizer” and then split a main dish.  He got pasta, I got the farro, and then we split swordfish carpaccio.  It was the perfect meal, whole grains, vegetables and lean protein, and delicious to boot!

Here’s a picture of the farro salad, filled with olives, zucchini, peas, and tomatoes.


This was my half of the swordfish carpaccio, topped with arugula, tomatoes, olives, and a couple slices of potatoes all drizzled with lemon juice & olive oil.


I thoroughly enjoyed this lunch, which was full of heart-healthy nutrients!

Onto our 3rd day in Rome.  This lunch was not as healthy, but it was quite an experience for our taste buds!  When I was at NYU completing my master’s program I participated in a 3 week summer program in Tuscay studying the Mediterranean Diet – half the students were nutrition majors and the other half were food studies majors (they are in the same department at NYU).  The trip was incredible, but that’s a whole other story.  We spent a few days in Rome, and on our trip there we were taken to this pizza place that I had the fondest memories from!

I had saved the business card, so I had the address and when I asked the hotel where it was, they said it’s off your map!  Still determined to walk there (since I like to walk EVERYWHERE when traveling), we were quite exhausted & starving by the time we made it to Pizzarium.  I was pleased to see a long line of locals, which was always a good sign.  The woman behind the counter told us the Margherita pizza was in the oven, since we were starving we tried a few others first (we shared everything you see pictured).

PizzariumThis was just a take-out sort of place, with a counter that you can stand and eat on.Roman pizza is shaped in square, and a little thicker crust.   Not as thick as a New York scile of scicilian, but about halfway there.   You tell them how much you want, and the slice is cut for you and you pay by weight.  The one on the left was ricotta and eggplant, the one on the left was potato and cheese, talk about carb loading!  This just wetted our appetite, it was absolutely delicious but we wanted to try the basic Margherita pizza!

Margarita pizzaYUM!!  The slightly thick crust with fresh cheese and tons of basil – perfection.  I definitely ate more than I would normally eat, but hey I was on vacation!  I thoroughly enjoyed each bite, and we left lunch feeling quite satisfied 🙂  Then we were off to conquer the rest of the day and walk some more!

Nutrition Tidbit:

  • Farro is an ancient wheat grain very common in Italian cooking
  • Sometimes spelt and farro are used interchangeably, but they are not the same grain
  • 1/4 cup dry farro contains 160 calories, 3 grams fiber, and 7 grams protein!
  • Farro is rich magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E

Rainbow Meal

I’m sure you’ve heard many people in the health industry saying “eat the colors of the rainbow.”  While it may seem like a silly statement, it’s very true!  The various colors contain different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.  So if you’re diet is predominately one color, you may want to think of varying it up a bit.

Look at this lunch I had last week.  Lots of fresh, raw vegetables with hummus for dipping.  In addition to a piece of turbot (white fish) with blackening spices and quinoa salad with fresh herbs, apricots and dried cranberries.


While it does not contain every color (it’s missing white & purple/blue), it sure comes close!   Here are just SOME of the health benefits from this meal:

Red Bell Pepper, Cranberries & Radishes:

  • Red pepper is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is an antioxidant and scavenges free radicals in addition to keeping good eye health.  They also contain as much vitamin C as an orange.
  • Cranberries contain high levels of vitamin C in addition to many phytonutrients (disease preventers – help with urninary problems)
  • Radishes are very good sources of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, and potasssium.  They are also a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.

Orange Carrots & Apricots:

  • Carrots and apricots contain vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber and potassium
  • Carrots contain many phytonutrients, just to give you an idea: lutein, lycopene, carotenoids, zeaxanthin, and xanthophyll. 

Green Celery & Basil:

  • Celery is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, folate, molybdenum, manganese and vitamin B6. Lastly, celery is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin A, phosphorus and iron.  – and who said celery has no nutritional value?!
  • Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A. In addition, basil is a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.

While you don’t need to get in every color at each meal, try your best to vary it up from meal to meal.  The next time you are food shopping, try one new vegetable that you have never made. Who knows what types of disease-fighting compounds it may have, but it’s worth a shot!

Eat to good health!

Inside Scoop on Sushi

Have you ever wondered how many calories are in sushi rolls?

Last week I ordered in from Haru, which is an upscale chain sushi restaurant in Manhattan.  I typically order salmon/avocado roll with brown rice and a piece or two of sashimi.  In addition I order a seaweed salad, edamame or a salad to complete my dinner.  This time I decided to take apart the roll to figure out how much of each component was in the roll to figure out the calories.  Keep an eye out, I will likely be doing this again for comparison sake!


I love tuna, but order salmon since tuna is high in mercury, and get an extra healthy dose of omega-3s from the salmon!  This roll is higher in fat due to the salmon & avocado, but it’s all healthy unsaturated fat.  The combination of the lean protein (salmon), healthy fat (salmon & avocado), and fiber (brown rice), is a winning combination for satiety.

Nutritional Breakdown: 1 roll (6 pieces)*

224 calories, 7 grams fat, 24 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 16 grams protein

*I did not factor in any added sugar.  Sushi rice is typically made with rice vinegar, sugar & salt.  Since I did not have the recipe, I used basic cooked brown rice for the analysis.

Nutrition Tidbit:

Keep in mind that this nutritional breakdown is for this role in particular, sizes of rolls can vary quite a bit. However if you keep the roll simple, calories are very reasonable.

When ordering sushi:

  • Start with miso soup or green salad (ask for the dressing on the side)
  • Share an order of edamame for your table
  • Enjoy a combination of sashimi (fish only), sushi (fish over rice), or maki (rolls)
  • Skip the eel (very high in fat) and anything with “tempura”, cream cheese, or mayo/spicy sauces.
  • If brown rice is an option, get it!
  • Always ask for low sodium soy sauce, but still use it sparingly (1 Tablespoon has 575 mg!)
  • Enjoy some wasabi and pickled ginger with your sushi (but remember they contain sodium too!)

Potato, Bacon & Corn Frittata


Sunday mornings are a great time to experiment in the kitchen.  I looked around to survey the kitchen and see what I could make.  There were 2 yukon gold potatoes leftover from our week and a half old CSA delivery, in addition to fresh corn that came on Friday.  I thought to myself – a frittata would be perfect.  I used various ingredients I had on hand and came out with a wonderful egg creation!  Keep in mind, you can easily make substitutions when making this.  I had bacon in the freezer and thought the combination with the potatoes and corn would go really nicely, which it did, but you can easily leave this out to make it vegetarian.

I served myself 1/4 of the frittata with a bowl of blueberries.  It was a deliciously filling breakfast.


  • 2 large yukon gold potatoes (315 grams)
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 2 slices nitrate free bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup evaporated skim milk
  • 1 1/4 ounces grated parmesan


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Chop potatoes into 1/4″ dice.  Place in microwave safe bowl with a little water.  Microwave until tender (~4-5 minutes)


2.  Chop onions & bell pepper

3.  Shuck corn.  Wrap in damp paper towel and microwave for 3 minutes.  Then slice kernels off the cob.


4.  Chop 2 slices of bacon into 1/4″ slices.

5.  Place 10″ skillet (no plastic) on medium-high heat.  Add bacon cook until crispy.

6.  Add in onion to skillet and cook until onion starts to carmelize.

Bacon & Onion

7.  Then add in bell pepper and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.

8.  Add potatoes to skillet and let potato crisp, approximately 2-3 minutes.

9.  Add corn to skillet, season with salt & pepper.


10.  Whisk 2 whole eggs plus 3 egg whites with 1/3 cup evaporated skim milk until light and frothy.  Then pour over vegetables.  Cook until bottom is set.


11.  Top with grated parmesan cheese and place in oven.  Cook until top of egg is set.  You can broil it at the end to brown the cheese (I did that).

12.  Slice in quarters and serve!

Nutritional Information:

Serves: 4 people

238 calories, 7 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 31 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 15 grams protein

Nutritin Tidbit:

Bacon does have saturated fat and should be limited, however, it adds a lot of flavor to dishes.  If you would like to use bacon, choose one that is nitrate-free and center-cut (lower fat).  This is the one I like to use:

BaconBacon Nutrition

A Beautiful Shower


This past Sunday I went to my brother’s fiance’s bridal shower.  It was a beautiful shower!  The theme was “travel” and each person was given a luggage tag as their place card.  Cute idea, huh?

Luggage TagsThe table names were the places they have traveled together.

Now onto the food, here was the menu:

Shower MenuI chose the salad to start:

SaladIt was simple but delicious!  I ate every last bite.

For my entree I chose the salmon:

SalmonThe salmon was served over a fennel salad with tomatoes and greens with an organge vinaigrette.  It was very flavorful, yet light at the same time.  The salmon was pretty large, about 6-8 ounces, so I ate half the salmon and all the veggies.  I wanted to save room for some dessert!

Dessert was a chocolate fondue served family style:

FondueAll I can say is WOW!  The chocolate had a fire under it to keep it warm, and it was super dark, just the way I like it!  I love desserts like this because you can choose just how much you want.  I had a taste of everything except for the pound cake and the apple.  The marshmallow in the chocolate was amazing!! They served graham crackers crumbs to dip in too, here’s my photo:

MarshmallowMy 2nd favorite was the strawberry:

StrawberryYou can use your imagination to determine what the pretzel and banana looked like!

Overall, I felt like I did a great job.  Sometimes 3+ course meals can be challenging if you don’t have a plan, and you can end up leaving very full!  For me I decided to choose the lighter appetizer and main dish so that I could have dessert without feeling weighed down!  It worked out perfectly.  I enjoyed everything.

Nutrition Tidbit: When eating out, choose what you want to indulge in ahead of time.  If you want a richer entree (something very cheesy, fried, or in a cream sauce), then you may want to stay away from the bread and dessert.  It’s all about choices, and it’s easy for the calories to add up quickly.  Depending on your proper caloric intake you make want to decide ahead of time if you will be:

  • drinking
  • having a heavy appetizer or entree
  • eating bread
  • having dessert

It’s ok to indulge in all of the above sometimes, but if you eat out a lot then you may want to cut back or have small tastes of each.

Bon Appetite!

Hot Dogs on the Line

Have you seen the latest news about the lawsuit on hot dogs?

The Washington, D.C.-based Cancer Project (a vegan advocacy group) decided to take their stand again nitrate laden hot dog brands: Oscar Mayer brand; Sara Lee Corp.; Nathan’s Famous; and the makers of the Hebrew National and Sabrett brands.

The lawsuit is based on a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research that states regular consumption of processed meat can increase the risk of colorectal and other forms of cancer.

What does the advocacy group want?  They want hot dogs to have a warning label on them.

What do you think of this?

Do you remember the lawsuits in the early 2000’s against McDonalds?  Consumers stated that the food made them obese?  And it was McDonalds responsibility?  Those lawsuits were dismissed.

As a dietitian I tell all my clients about the correlation between nitrates and cancer.   If someone is eating nitrate-filled meats on a daily basis I have them switch to Applegate farms or another brand that is nitrate-free.  These days there are a lot of great options.  However, many people do not know about the negatives of nitrates.  Where does the responsibility lie?  Is it the responsibility of consumers to learn about nitrates or the manufacturers to tell the consumers?  Are nitrates worse than saturated fat?  Should muffins have warning labels on them since they are full of butter?  There are so many things in our food supply that are questionably healthy: trans fat (still in foods – no warning labels), nitrates, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, and the list goes on.

Personally I think everything is ok in moderation.  If someone has a hot dog at a baseball game and maybe one or two others during the year is that a problem?  It probably depends on their overall diet.  The main driving force is that everyone should eat a “cleaner” diet free of added chemicals and preservatives.  If you eat well 80-90% of the time, then there is room for some treats in moderation.

Bottom Line:  I have a feeling this lawsuit will be dismissed rather quickly.

I have not spoken to anyone who thought a hot dog was “healthy.”  If you want a hot dog once in while then go for it.  If you love hot dogs or other nitrate-filled meats and have them on a more regular basis then choose ones that are labeled “nitrate-free.”