A Staple In My Kitchen: Hummus

I think a lot people are curious as to what is inside a dietitian’s fridge.  I like buy a variety of foods to keep things interesting, however, there are definitely staples that I almost always have.

Today’s highlight is: Hummus!

Hummus is a spread that is made of chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.  There can be variations of hummus with additions of roasted red peppers, spicy peppers, extra garlic or lemon juice, and many more.

Why do I love hummus?

  • The flavor is amazing
  • It’s made from healthy fat (olive oil and tahini)
  • It’s filling due to protein (chickpeas), fiber (chickpeas) and healthy fat (olive oil and tahini)
  • It is incredibly universal

Here are my favorite ways to enjoy hummus:

  • As a spread on a sandwich (if you substitute hummus for mayo you will 60-80 calories per tablespoon!)
  • As a dip for vegetables, crackers or pita
  • As a salad dressing (thin with vinegar)

My favorite kind is Sabra…but do note that it has more calories and fat than the others.  That’s why it tastes so yummy!  It has about 80 calories per serving verse the 40-50 calories that most brands have.

Nutrition Tidbit:

  • Even though hummus is a health food you can definitely overdo it!
  • Each container has 8 servings, which adds up to 320-640 calories for the whole thing!
  • Portion out a proper serving on a plate and then dip away.

What’s your favorite type of hummus?


Should You Drink Juice?

I get this question all the time:  “Should I drink juice?”

The answer is two-fold.

100% fruit juice has a lot of the nutrition components of actual fruit.  You are getting various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  If you love juice then you should stick to 100% fruit juice – avoid any fruit drinks and fruit cocktails that are artificially flavored water instead of actual juice.  There’s nothing wrong with 100% fruit juice…you just have to be mindful of calories!

Calories in 8 oz of Juice:

  • Orange Juice: 110 calories
  • Grapefruit Juice: 100 calories
  • Apple Juice: 120 calories
  • Cranberry Juice: 140 calories
  • Grape Juice: 160 calories

Juice is fabulous for athletes and those looking to gain weight because you can add in a lot of extra calories without filling up.  However, juice might not be the best choice for those looking to lose weight or those with diabetes or other sugar sensitivites.

Juice does not fill you up as much as fruit will.  Why is this?

Juice is missing the fiber that the fruit has! So the next time you have the opportunity to choose orange juice or an orange for breakfast, choose the fruit.  You’ll feel more full and have consumed less calories!

Calories Saved If You Choose Fruit over Juice

  • 1 medium orange instead of a 1 cup of juice: 50 calories
  • 1/2 grapefruit instead of 1 cup of juice: 60 calories
  • 1 medium apple instead of 1 cup of juice: 25 calories
  • 1 cup cranberries instead of 1 cup of juice: 100 calories
  • 1 cup grapes instead of 1 cup of juice: 60 calories

There’s a good chance you will save even more calories because it’s easy to drink more than 8 oz of juice!  But you probably won’t sit down to 2 or 3 oranges at a one time!

If you have a really hard time giving up juice, my recommendation is to lighten it up.  Take 2 oz of juice and mix it with 8 oz of water or seltzer.  You will get accustomed to the less sweet taste over time.

Do you drink juice on a daily basis?

Make Things Easy!

When you have a baby your life literally gets turned upside down.  If you were an organized person who liked to plan a lot (like me!) suddenly you can’t do that anymore!  You have to go with the flow.  Right now I’m having a hard time finding time to do anything because Hannah refuses to nap 🙂

Even though life is crazy and being organized is not really happening, it’s not an excuse to lead an unhealthy lifestyle.  So what do I recommend?  You must make things easy on yourself!  Here are some recommendations:

  1. Get groceries delivered!  I’ve spoken about Fresh Direct before, but now I’m even a greater advocate.  Having your groceries delivered is definitely the way to go.  At night once Hannah goes to sleep I can try to think about what I need in the apartment for some simple meals and snacks and place an order.  It’s so simple!
  2. Buy prepped food.  You will pay extra, but if it actually makes you use the food then it’s worth it!  Buy the pre-chopped fruits and vegetables.  Spring for the thin cut chicken cutlets.  Choose the lettuce in the bag (even though you should still wash it before eating).
  3. Treat yourself!  You may not have the time to make a salad – all the chopping and prepping can take a lot of time.  So treat yourself to a salad out – this way you know you’re getting in a healthy meal, and not spending all the time making it yourself!
  4. Keep frozen meals on hand.  Eating fresh is the way to go, but sometimes it is just not possible!  Keep frozen meals around so you can have a quick meal in a pinch.  My favorites are Kashi and Amy’s.  Bulk them up with frozen vegetables, you can microwave them all together.   And it’s healthier than takeout!
  5. Buy pre-made food from your local health food store.  If you have a Whole Foods near by or something similar shop from their prepared food section.  There will be lots of healthy choices and all you have to do is warm it up!  At Whole Foods you can buy pre-made salmon or chicken, lots of wonderful veggies and delicious whole grains.  Just be careful that the things you choose aren’t swimming in oil – just because it comes from a health food store does not mean it’s healthy!

How do you make things easier on yourself?

A Healthier Deli Meat

Deli sandwiches are so easy and can be a very healthy choice.  Unfortunately, I can’t eat them right now.  Turkey, ham and roast beef are all lean options!  I tell my clients you can find a turkey sandwich on whole wheat (sans mayo) wherever you go!

The main issues with deli meats are the nitrates and the sodium content.  Sodium nitrate is a common ingredient in deli meats that is used as a food preservative.  The concern with nitrates is that it’s a known carcinogen.  Now I wouldn’t go crazy if you consume it from time to time, but if you consume deli meats on a daily basis I recommend using a brand that is nitrate free.

In the past I have always recommended Applegate Farms products.  I love their products because they are organic and nitrate free.  However, these are not sold everywhere and are a bit pricey.  This morning while watching the Today Show, there was a segment on the healthiest packaged foods and they mentioned Hormel Natural Choice deli meats that are nitrate free!  While I haven’t tried these myself, I’m sure they are easier to find and would make a great healthy lunch meat choice.

Keep in mind, sodium content on these brands is still high.  So if you suffer from high blood pressure look for a reduced sodium, nitrate free alternative.

Do you enjoy deli meats?

A Healthy Pretzel

Do you struggle to find an afternoon snack that not only keeps you full but tastes good?  And sometimes you find yourself mindlessly adding money to the vending machine to get your sweet or salty fix?  Well I’ve come up with a great alternative for those who yearn for afternoon pretzels as a snack.


Newman’s Own does it again with their Spelt Pretzels.

Most pretzels are made of refined flour that give you a burst of energy, but leave you sluggish soon after. These spelt pretzels are made with spelt flour (a type wheat) and a few other ingredients (sunflower oil, salt, yeast and sodium bicarbonate). The short and healthy ingredient list makes it a go to snack choice.

The nutritional information for 20 mini pretzels are: 120 calories, 1 gram fat (0 g sat fat), 240 mg sodium, 23 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

With 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein these pretzels will keep you full. I recommend adding a protein to increase satiety even further. Here are some examples:

  • Dipped in hummus or tzaziki
  • Paired with an ounce of low fat cheese
  • Added to trail mix with nuts and dried fruit

Nutrition Tidbit: Pretzels and other high-carb snacks can be addicting, portion out one serving rather than eating straight from the bag!

Have you tried these pretzels?

Is Pasta Fattening?

Pasta gets a really bad rap.  One claim I hear all the time is: “Pasta is Fattening.”

To set the record straight, pasta is not fattening, in fact it contains very little fat.  The issue is that if you overeat carbs (ie you give your body more than it needs) then your body will turn the extra carbohydrates into fat for storage.

The main issues I see with pasta are that it’s usually eaten as a refined grain (regular semolina pasta) and that the portion is too large. However, pasta can be enjoyed in a healthy way when you keep an eye on your portion and if you choose whole grains.  White pasta is fine sometimes, but try to choose whole grain the majority of the time.  The fiber in the whole wheat pasta will help keep you more full, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and provide more vitamins and minerals.

Having trouble switching to whole grain?  Here are a couple brands I recommend.

  • Barilla Plus – you can find this kind at your average supermarket.  While it isn’t 100% whole wheat, it’s a good compromise especially for those who love white pasta.
  • Whole Foods 365 Whole Wheat Pasta – this pasta gets rave reviews time after time.  And it’s less expensive than the other brands sold at Whole Foods!

Nutrition Tidbit: 1 cup of cooked pasta (white or whole wheat) contains approximately 200 calories.  It does vary based on shape.  If you want to be very accurate then weigh out the pasta before cooking.  2 oz of dry (uncooked) pasta is 1 serving.

Do you like Whole Wheat Pasta, or have you had trouble switching?

High Protein Diets & Bone Health

In the early 1900s thoughts started brewing that a diet high in protein would lead to bone loss.  This notion has remained for many years, but is it true?

Osteoporosis or low bone mass, is a huge problem that affects approximately 44 million Americans.  Those with osteoporosis are usually told to limit protein, caffeine, phosphorus and sodium.  But is there any validity these recommendations?  Today we’re going to focus on the effect of protein.

I’ll try to simplify this is as much as possible!  The theory stems from acids and bases.  There are certain anions that are “acidic” such as: phosphate, sulfate, and chloride.  Then there are anions that are “alkaline” such as: sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  Foods high in sulfates are: meat, fish, dairy and grains.  Foods high in potassium are fruits and vegetables.  One would think that if you eat a lot of high protein foods (acidic) then your body needs to balance it out with bases and will do this by pulling calcium (alkaline) from the bones.

However recent studies have shown this is not the case.  Also if you think of it in this way, sodium would be just as protective as potassium!  Which is not the case.  There are many factors that go on when we eat, we’re not consuming individual nutrients, there are many synergestic effects taking place.  Therefore, when you consume grains that are high in sulfer amino acids (similar to meats), they also contain alkalis that balance it out.

Recent studies have shown that when individuals consume more protein (~ 20% of total calories) there is no negative effect on bone health! In fact some studies have shown that high protein intake can actually increase calcium absorption.

Would I recommend a very high protein intake similar to one of a body builder – not necessarily.  But a moderate to moderately high protein intake should be fine.  I also find that my clients have an easier time maintaining and losing weight with a higher protein intake due to the satiety level.