Monthly Archives: June 2015

Healthy Cooking – Top Kitchen Essentials

Buying the right equipment makes it easier to cook healthfully.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on new equipment – I’ve gotten some of my favorite pots, pans, and even electronic equipment at garage sales and Goodwill.

I’ve underlined the basic essentials – the other equipment can be accumulated as you go along.

Plates and Bowls: Bigger is not better

which plate has more food

Studies show that the larger the portion, the more you eat, so it stands to reason that smaller dishes makes eating healthfully easier. Avoid buying plates that look like platters – research shows that smaller bowls, plates and cups help people manage their portions – a simple strategy, but it works!


Nonstick pans and pots: A smart strategy for weight management is to add less fat to your food. Invest in some good quality (heavy weight) non-stick – they’re great for sautéing, soups, stews and more. A favorite alternative to nonstick is anodized aluminum – conducts heat beautifully but behaves like nonstick…a bit pricy, though.

Don’t pre-heat a nonstick pot or pan without some broth or a little oil in it – read here for more about purchasing. Read more here about recommendations for cookware.

Saucepans – 1 quart and 4 quart

Stock pot – regular or nonstick

9” skillet – great for quick-sautéing onions and garlic, on the way to a tasty sauce.

Baking pans – for fresh bread and loaf cakes.

Pyrex (or glass) mixing bowls with lids – for microwaving, re-heating and cooking; can double as mixing bowls.

Baking sheets

cookwareShallow-sloped sauté pan, or wok – nonstick or anodized aluminum works great here too.

Pizza pan – nonstick is great – but be sure to not use a metal pizza cutter on nonstick.

Tea kettle

Mixing bowls with lids

Electronic Kitchen

Blender: great for smoothies, blending soup, and whipping up eggs.

Optional: Mini-blender (portable, for quick smoothies on-the-go); electric hand blender (great for soups and sauces).

Coffee pot – electric –or a non-electric French press uses boiling water poured over ground coffee.

Microwave oven – for quick-cooking vegetables and re-heating leftovers. A convenience, but not essential.

Slow cooker – can use as a rice cooker too.

Hot air popcorn maker – not essential but an inexpensive way to pop corn healthfully.

Food scale – if it’s in your budget, electronic scales are great especially if you’re a baker.

Standing mixer with attachments, including dough hook – again, not essential but convenient.


Utensils for nonstick or anodized aluminum cookware – plastic and/or wooden: read more here about how to safely use nonstick cookware.

Good chef’s knife – you can spend as little as $20 or as much as $200 – a good knife will save you a lot of time and make cooking more fun. Read more here.

Paring knife

Serrated knife

Kitchen shears

Skewers for kabobs

Garlic press

Lemon/lime press



Measuring cups and spoons

Plastic containers – Serving-size (small and medium) plastic containers with lids that go from freezer to microwave: great for storing made-ahead healthy soups and stews – your own healthy “fast food”.

Plastic storage bags – Gallon, quart, and sandwich-sized plastic re-sealable bags.

Marking pens and painter’s tape – write the date on the containers and plastic storage bags

Flexible cutting boards – These inexpensive plastic boards prevent cross-contamination: designate on especially for raw chicken – disinfect with hot water and soap, or in the dishwasher after use.

Ice cube trays (for frozen fruit treats).

Salad spinner – the insert can double as a colander.


Vegetable steamer – if you have a microwave, you can steam veggies quickly in glass bowls in the microwave.

Easy Top 5 Ways to Cut 100 Calories

“Going on a diet” is code for changing what you typically eat and drink, and adopting someone else’s diet. For example, going on a “low carb” diet means ditching bread and pasta, and restricting to only carb-free protein plus fat, usually sourced from animal foods.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum are “low fat” diets – just as stringently staying away from cheese and nuts and other foods that are oh, so satisfying that after a while you’re likely to fall off the bandwagon. Which leads to abandoning “the diet” or “cheating”…all these negative words lead up to diet failure!

So my philosophy is…don’t diet, live it! Make modifications to your usual way of eating, and never go “on a diet” again!

Top 5 Calorie-Cutters

kid cooking healthy

  1. Preparation: Instead of making your food fat-sponges, use cooking techniques that minimize fat but keep the flavor. Instead of deep-frying, broil, bake, grill, sauté – in a little oil, but not too much. Cut the Fat: For each tablespoon of fat you don’t add to your food, you save 100 calories.
  2. Choose Lean: From hamburger to steak, lamb to pork, red meat can be a dieter’s friend – as long as it’s lean. Lean meats are satiating and provide lots of iron and other important nutrients. Don’t forget poultry – some of the leanest meat is only lean if eaten without the skin – remove the skin from poultry and save hundreds of calories – automatically! Cut the fat: By buying 95% lean hamburger, reduce 100 calories compared to 80% lean.
  3. Hold The Sauce – My mantra for keeping the calories in control is “on the side” – each tablespoon of gravy, salad dressing, or oil adds about 100 calories – certain sauces are full of fat and calories – and just making a substitute can cut calories significantly – for example, substitute a tomato-based marinara sauce for creamy Alfredo and reduce at least 100 calories without sacrificing flavor.
  4. Keep it Whole – fruit juice can ruin a weight loss diet – a glass a juice shoots your blood sugar up and then down just as fast, leaving you hungry for more. But whole fruit has fiber, and fills you up. Ditch the fruit juice, and eat your fruit whole. Cut hundreds of calories, and feel fuller.
  5. Sweet ‘n Smart: There’s no reason that diets should mean deprivation. The quickest way to fail on a “diet” is to make it so Spartan that you quit. Make a sweet treat part of your day – choose a sugar-free hot chocolate instead of regular. When you dine out, share a small dessert, or savor two bites. Cut the portion size and save 100 calories.

Kids With Autism: Is There A Diet For That?

Autism is not just one disease – but as explained in, autism is a term used to describe a wide range of developmental disorders – those affected may be born with the disorder, or develop it – early in life. The group of disorders is known as a spectrum – and someone who falls within the spectrum has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

kid autism

The majority (60%) of those with ASD have intellectual disabilities – they may range from mild to severe. But 40% may have average or even above-average intelligence. The cause of autism is unknown, although there is some evidence of a genetic link, and environmental factors are being studied too.

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about how diet might impact or worsen symptoms of autism. For example, as reported in The Atlantic, celebrity anti-vaccine advocate Jenny McCarthy claimed that she’d “cured” her son of autism (supposed a result of adolescent vaccinations) with gluten free diet and supplements. But she then admitted that her son never had autism – but refuses to back off the claim that gluten caused his disease and symptoms.

So, gluten is a very popular whipping boy for all kinds of symptoms…not only autism but to cure all sorts of ills, blaming gluten for causing stress, obesity, headaches, and arthritis, just to name a few.

No doubt, some must avoid gluten due to an allergy – or intolerance. But experts say that only about 1 in 100 people have one of the three main clinical problems made worse from eating gluten – the complex of proteins found in wheat, rye and barley.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease – if the sufferer eats gluten the small intestine is damaged. A true wheat allergy sufferer will react with what’s similar to a reaction to peanuts or cats – wheezing, hives, and possibly life-threatening anaphylaxis. Gluten intolerance (wheat or gluten sensitivity) is more difficult to define – the other two conditions may be tested for – rather, intolerance is self-reported – people may say they “feel better” without eating foods with gluten – and that may be true – but there are not credible studies to either prove – or disprove the intolerance.

If someone has celiac disease or wheat allergy, there is one “cure” – and that is complete avoidance of any foods that contain gluten – even a small trace can trigger a response. And gluten is present in oh, so many foods! It’s added to sauces, to frozen foods – beer, made from barley, is a no-no…breads, cookies, crackers and cakes…flavored coffees and teas, soups, cereals…even some medications include gluten in their inactive ingredients. Read more here from

Experts in autism note that between 30% and 80% of autistic kids have gastrointestinal symptoms – diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and pain – but the consensus is that there’s more than one reason – it could be due to food allergies, or metabolic abnormalities, nutritional deficiencies or it could be because of overuse of antibiotics that may have been prescribed for respiratory problems or ear infections.

Parents, often desperate to help their kids get better, place them on elimination diets – popular diets include gluten-free, as well as eliminating all casein (dairy). Although there is lots of anecdotal evidence, there are no peer-reviewed studies that confirm this works. In fact, a well-designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled four-month study of 14 preschoolers with autism found that a strict gluten-and-casein-free diet didn’t show any benefits compared to a control diet including gluten and dairy.

That’s not to say that kids with autism wouldn’t benefit from working with a qualified dietitian who specializes in working with kids with autism. Just eliminating entire groups of foods isn’t a good idea – and should work with a professional registered dietitian to avoid creating nutritional deficiencies.  Some research has linked certain food dyes to behavioral disorders so read labels carefully to avoid- read more here.

There is ongoing research that points to improvement by reducing GI symptoms by avoiding refined carbohydrates and including certain beneficial fats and adequate protein. Read more here.

Fish Oil Supplements – Helpful or Harmful?

The American Heart Association has, for years, recommended fatty fish to help reduce the chance of heart disease.   Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

There are documented benefits linked to omega-3 fatty acids. According to the, omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid, which have been shown in clinical trials to reduce inflammation and lower risk for heart disease. Other benefits include decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing risk for blood clots, boosting immunity and improving arthritis symptoms. Even more studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids improve memory for adults and learning ability for children.

fish oil woman mouth

Health seekers have turned to omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements for a couple of reasons.

Some people dislike fish, especially fatty fish, which is the best food source of omega-3s. Anchovies and sardines are two of the richest sources, but a lot of people complain about the “fishy taste” so fish oil capsules are an ideal compromise.

Contamination is yet another concern. Fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel may be overfished, farmed (and fed antibiotics), or tainted with mercury. A few years back, actor Jeremy Piven would up in the hospital with mercury toxicity – it appears that his twice-daily meal of raw sushi (tuna, mackerel, salmon) caused his mercury levels to soar.

Fresh fish can be expensive – and supplements may be a way to get the fish benefits more cheaply and easily.

But, as reported in Men’s Fitness,   there are countless brands of fish oil supplements ranging in price from $5 up to $30 dollars per bottle – available over-the-counter, even online. But be forewarned – all supplements are not created equal – some may even be dangerous – they may contain less of the active EPA and DHA omega-3s than advertised…or worse, they may contain unsafe and illegal levels of PCBs.  Safe supplements will list the species of fish used to make the oil (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies are the richest and safest fish in terms of level of mercury), and also list total amounts of EPA and DHA – as well as the source of the fish, and a guarantee that there are no heavy metals, toxins or pesticides. I think it’s important to only buy supplements that have been reviewed by an independent, third-party testing company, such as or


Consumers can skip supplements and if they dislike fish they can choose other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including vegetarian omega-3 supplements (vegetable oils such as soybean, canola, walnut, and flaxseed) and foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds.

The American Heart Association recommends eating one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The AHA cites studies that link consumption to a reduced risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

All fish are good sources of protein but the best advice is to avoid potential contaminants – such as mercury – by eating a variety of fish – avoid big predatory fish like swordfish, tuna, and shark – and eat smaller fish like sardines, anchovies, and my favorite, shellfish – all are rich in omega-3s and have a low chance of being contaminated.

To learn more about all sources of omega-3 fatty acids: from both fish and vegetarian sources from, click here

To learn more about fish oil supplements from the click here