Reclaim Tradition with Ancient Grains

September 16th, 2014

Udi's Stuffed Chicken

September is Whole Grain Month and a good time to reclaim traditions from the past. Ancient grains, also known as heritage grains, provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber — all essential to good health.

Traditionally, all grains eaten were whole grains. Studies show that including whole grains in your diet can significantly lower your risk for chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. If you’ve already been diagnosed with one of these conditions whole grains can make it easier to manage the disease.

According to the Boston-based, Whole Grain Council, whole grain consumption jumped 23% from 2008 to 2010, as more people discovered the many delicious whole grain options available in restaurants and on grocery shelves.  Yet most people are still far short of recommendations, and would benefit from switching more of the grains they eat to whole grains.

In a webinar “Teach an Old Grain New Tricks,” sponsored by Udi’s Gluten Free, registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, cleared up the confusion and myths surrounding ancient grains and provided tips on incorporating them into your diet.

Contrary to popular belief, Bonnie said most ancient grains are gluten free, versatile and flavorful, and because of their high fiber content, they can help you loose weight too. That’s because the fiber in them provides a feeling of fulness, resulting in fewer calories eaten at a meal.

The following are a few of the ancient grains Bonnie discussed:

  • Amaranth is more like a seed than a true grain. It is popular in Africa and South America. Amaranth is naturally gluten-free, and contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron. You can use amaranth as breakfast porridge, ground into flour for breads or muffins, and the seeds can be popped like popcorn.
  • Quinoa is one of the most popular ancient grains in the United States. It is considered a complete protein because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Quinoa is also rich in iron an phosphorus. Quinoa is a South American grain that cooks much like rice but faster. It’s great for soups, salads, casseroles, and in any dish that calls for rice.
  • Millet a staple of Asia and Africa. Millet, also gluten free is a heart healthy grain. It provides copper, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. Use millet for the texture of fried food without the frying. Breading with millet will give your chicken a crisp and crunchy coating.
  • Sorghum is a popular gluten free whole grain that can be substituted for wheat flour in baked goods such as muffins, breads, pizza dough and cakes. It can also be eaten as a cooked cereal.

Along with chia and flax seeds,Udi’s combines these and other ancient grains to make a variety of recipes and products that have all been tested for deliciousness…just happen to be gluten free…and are packed with wholesome goodness.

Here are just a few of their wonderful recipes you’ll want to try. Your tastebuds will be glad you did!


This post was written while participating in my partnership with Udi’s Gluten Free. However, all opinions are my own.

Food Allergies and Healthy Lunches

September 15th, 2014

Sending your child off to school for the first time may be difficult, but for those parents who have children with food allergies, it can cause even more anxiety. Recent studies show that 1 in 20 children under the age of 5 are allergic to at least one food. With food allergies affecting an abundance of young children, as a parent it is important for you to let your child’s principal, teachers, and cafeteria staff know of any allergies so that they can take the necessary steps to protect your child’s well-being. This month I am sharing information on common food allergies and what you can do to help. And even if your life is not personally affected by food allergies, please share this newsletter with colleagues, friends, and relatives!

Click here to find out the three most common food allergies in kids.

Prevention is Power!

April 21st, 2014

April is National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about the health disparities that continue to affect African Americans and other minority groups. This year’s theme, Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity emphasizes the critical role of prevention in reducing health disparities and presents a prime opportunity to talk about the importance of diabetes prevention.

Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutrient-dense diet that includes yogurt and other low-fat dairy products can help prevent diabetes.  A study published August 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that by drinking one extra glass of milk per day you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 13 percent. Other studies show that it’s not just the amount of dairy but the type of dairy is also very important. Eating more low-fat fermented dairy products such as yogurt is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

And there’s good news for people who’ve already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?  In April 2014 the American Diabetes Association published a study that showed when patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes followed a low carbohydrate Mediterranean style diet, they had a greater reduction of average blood glucose (HbA1c ) levels, higher rate of diabetes remission, and delayed need for diabetes medication compared with a low-fat diet.

Greek yogurt is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and can help you prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. And if you’re lactose intolerant there’s no need to worry. Yogurt is more easily digested than milk because it has lactase-producing yogurt cultures.

The following tips will help you enjoy the great taste of yogurt and get all the health benefits too.

  • Add 1 cup Greek yogurt to 2 lbs. mashed potatoes in place of 4 Tbsp. butter.
  • Replace Greek yogurt for sour cream, cup for cup, in your favorite muffin or coffee cake recipes.
  • Use the same amount of Greek nonfat yogurt in place of oil in marinades for chicken, fish or pork before grilling for a tangy flavor.
  • Use 1 Tbsp. Greek nonfat yogurt per serving instead of 1 Tbsp. sour cream to garnish bean soups or chili.
  • Have you tried Greek in place of butter on bagels or muffins yet? Try it!
  • For more great tips on cooking with yogurt click here.

Bon Appétit

This post was written while participating in my partnership with Dannon, but as always, all opinions are my own and consistent with my personal mission, to shorten the cultural distance between patients and their healthcare provider.



Explore New Foods and Flavors

March 24th, 2014

Taste is the number-one reason why one food is purchased over another. So what can you do when the taste of favorite foods starts to lose its luster? As part of the 2014 National Nutrition Month® theme, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to explore new foods and flavors, keeping taste and nutrition on your plate at every meal.

Claim Your Health Claim Your History

February 7th, 2014

 February is Black History and American Heart Month   A Perfect Time to Claim Your Health and History

Also, coinciding with Black History Month is African Heritage & Health Week, February 1 – 7, which commemorates the foods, flavors and healthy cooking techniques that were core to the wellbeing of our African ancestors from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South.

Scientific studies show that many chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, now prevalent in our communities, appear in populations as traditional diets are left behind. Studies have also shown that as younger Africans shift from traditional to nontraditional lifestyles weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels – signs of metabolic syndrome – rise.

So, if Africans who eat traditional foods from Africa are healthier than those who adopt a typical Western diet, it stands to reason that a healthy African-American diet should go back to its roots.

To help you do just that, Oldways – a Boston based nonprofit, developed the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, a cultural model for healthful eating based on the traditional diets of Africa. In fact as part of African Heritage Health Week, Oldways challenges everyone, everywhere to enjoy at least one delicious dish at home or at a restaurant inspired by the cuisine of African-American ancestors.

Before you head out to eat, check out the “African Heritage Dine Around” section of the Oldways website. It was designed to help you discover destinations, including pop-up shops and fine dining restaurants, across the nation, from Alabama to Wisconsin, where you can enjoy foods and flavors inspired by the cuisine of your African-American ancestors.

If a meal at home shared with family and friends is more appealing, Oldways suggests its own recipe for Jollof Rice as an option. This is a traditional African rice dish that is delicious and healthy, plus budget friendly. Plenty of other recipes are offered on Oldways’ website and the African Heritage & Health Pinterest recipe-sharing webpage.

Bon appétit!


Get Through The Holiday Season Sensibly – No Guilt or Deprivation!

December 10th, 2013

Thanksgiving is probably a distant memory and hopefully by now you’ve recovered from your dietary indiscretions…or should I say pigging out. But Christmas is right around the corner, filled with more rich hors d’oeuvres and temptation. Managing weight is difficult under the best of circumstances and can be especially challenging during the holiday season. There are just so many more opportunities for you to over indulge. The following 10 tips are designed to help you get through the holiday season sensibly – without deprivation or guilt.                                                                                                                                

Enjoy traditional holiday foods:  Depriving yourself of special foods or feeling guilty when you enjoy them isn’t part of a healthy eating strategy. Forget the “all or nothing” mindset and enjoy small portions of your favorite holiday foods.

 Slow down: Concentrate on eating slowly by putting the fork down between bites and savoring the taste and companionship during the meal. It takes at least 20 minutes for the stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. End result – eating slowly will help you stop eating before you feel bloated and stuffed.

 Be selective: Choose to explore new taste and flavors, rather than waste calories on everyday foods, like mashed potatoes or broccoli.

 Plan ahead: If you are invited to a party, call ahead for the menu. Offer to bring a dish you can enjoy without guilt. (See recipe below for Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt) Schedule your exercise before you schedule other holiday activities. Be flexible and remember, if you don’t plan exercise time it won’t happen.

 Step away from the appetizers: Upon arrival at the holiday party, place appetizers on a plate instead of picking on foods here and there. You’ll be less likely to overindulge! Then move away from the appetizers to avoid mindless eating.

 Drink to your health: Instead of a second glass of eggnog for over 300 calories, try sparkling water, seltzer or diet soda. Coffee and unsweetened tea are calorie free. Champagne, wine and alcoholic drinks are high in calories.

 Scan the buffet: Before you make your food choices scan the entire buffet. Choose small portions of food you really, really want. Use a small plate and leave plenty of space around your portions. Often just a taste will satisfy cravings.

 Socialization is calorie free: Remember to enjoy other aspects of the holidays, such as socialization with family and friends, the spirit of the season, exchanging gifts, and holiday decorations.

 Look your best: When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you’re less likely to seek comfort in food.

 Burn it up: Balance the food aspect of the party with games or other fun activities.  Plug in the Wii for a game of tennis or take a walk after the meal. Invite family and friends to participate.  Physical activity will burn those extra calories from the holiday meal.

 Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt

Instead of pumpkin or sweet potato pie, lighten up your dessert table with this delightful, nutrient rich dessert. Pumpkin chocolate yogurt is a healthful way to enjoy dark chocolate. It isn’t made with excessive amounts of sugar and other ingredients that often diminish the health benefits associated with high-quality dark chocolate.

Serves 4

2 cups nonfat Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (canned is perfect)
4 T dark honey
2 to 3 pinches ground cinnamon
2 pinches ground ginger
1/4 to 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
One 4-oz cacao dark chocolate bar that contains a high percentage of cacao solids, grated

1. Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate in a large bowl and mix well to incorporate.

2. Portion the mixture into individual serving dishes. Divide the chocolate evenly between the servings and stir to incorporate.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 278; Protein: 13 g; Carbohydrate: 38 g; Fiber: 3 g; Total fat: 12 g; Sat fat 6 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 45 mg

— Recipe courtesy of Chef Richard A. Amster

Food and Nutrition Apps Galore!

September 4th, 2013

With kids back in school, afternoon activities, business travel, and the start of football season, September is one busy month! With a jammed packed schedule it can be challenging to “get it all in” and stay focused on your health. However, with the use of the right apps, you can keep track of your progress and simplify your path to healthier living! In this month’s newsletter, I have shared a few of my favorite nutrition, fitness, recipe, and speciality apps that make living a healthy life easier. I have suggested these apps on a variety of factors, and encourage you to explore what is right for you and your goals.

- Constance

Click here to read my September Newsletter – Food and Nutrition Apps!

Sweet Substitutions

April 21st, 2013
                                                 Are you confused about the best “sweetener” to use? Everywhere you look, there seems to be talk about sugar and sugar substitutes.  This month in Eating Soulfully I am clarifying the confusion for you and providing a simple breakdown of the newest plant based sweeteners as well as some of the popular alternatives to sugar and how they can be used.
Click here to read about Sweet Substitutions
Did you miss me?  Yes, it’s been a minute since my last post.  But I won’t bore you with the details of why.  Just know I’m back with more great content to inspire you to Live Well With Diabetes.

Diabetes Myths and Misinformation

November 26th, 2012

Are you listening to old-wives’ tales or Uncle Pookie’s take on the best way to manage diabetes? Here are some common myths about diabetes – along with the facts. The more you know for sure, the better able you will be to successfully manage the disease.

Myth:  If you eat too many sweets, you’ll get diabetes.

Fact:    Diabetes isn’t caused by eating too much sugar; it’s caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. However, eating foods high in   sugar, fat, and calories can cause you to become overweight, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Myth:  Type 1 diabetes is more serious than type 2 diabetes.

Fact:    All types of diabetes are serious. Type 1 and type 2 involve elevated blood glucose levels which can lead to serious complications such as nerve damage, foot ulcers, amputation, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and blindness.

Myth: If you don’t take diabetes medicine, your diabetes must not be serious.

Fact:    Not everyone who has diabetes takes medicine for it. If your body produces some insulin, losing weight, adopting healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity can help insulin work more effectively. However, even if you don’t take medicine now, you need to keep a close eye on your condition. Diabetes does change through time, and diabetes medicine may be needed later.

Myth: If you get diabetes, insulin will cure it.

Fact:    Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes. It helps to control diabetes by keeping the blood glucose from rising. At this point, there is no cure, only medicines and lifestyle changes that can help you manage it better.

Myth: If you have diabetes you can expect to lose your sight and limbs eventually.

Fact:    Having diabetes doesn’t mean you’re doomed to sightlessness or amputations. Keeping your diabetes under control can prevent the most serious complications.

Myth: Dessert is off limits if you have diabetes.

Fact:    While eating too many sugary foods is not a good idea, you can have an occasional dessert. It should be counted as part of your total carbohydrate intake for the day. Meaning, if you plan to have a piece of wedding cake, limit the bread, potatos, and other carbs you eat that day.

Myth: If you love bread, potatoes, and pasta, you’re out of luck. Carbs and starches are off-limits if you have diabetes.

Fact:    Carbohydrates and starches are part of a healthy diet—even for people with diabetes. You have to control your portions, but you can enjoy a nice pasta salad or a few potatoes if you like.

Myth: You can cure diabetes with the right diet.

Fact:    A healthy diet and exercise can reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, but once you have it, you have it. Diabetes is a lifelong disease that has no cure. However, with proper management (that includes that healthy diet again) it can be well controlled.

Click here to read more about reversing diabetes.


September 18th, 2012

Week 5 – What’s in the box series.

Just as Stymie of the little rascals proclaimed his love of this summertime fruit (I know I am dating myself), I guess you could say loving watermelon is universal.

No other fruit says summertime more than watermelon. So if you want to quench your thirst and re-boost your body with anti-oxidants lycopene, vitamin A and vitamin C, watermelon has everything you need.

Wonderfully delicious, melons are a great source of potassium too.

Related  to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, watermelon is in the Cucurbitaceae family. Naturally low in calories, one cup provides just 46 calories.

Last week there was a small, cantaloupe size, seedless, red watermelon in the box and this week a full size yellow watermelon! It was incredibly crunchy, subtly sweeter, and had a more honey like taste than the other varieties I have had. As we have been eating this delicious melon all summer by the forkfuls, I wanted to find something a little more interesting to do with this hard to find special melon.

The first time I had gazpacho was in my early twenties on a trip with a friend to Williamsburg, Va. I can remember the heat being unbearably oppressive when we sat down for lunch.  Always adventurous, even then, I wanted to try this “cold cucumber soup”.  It was unbelievably cool and refreshing.

Originating in Spain, gazpacho is traditionally a tomato, vegetable soup served cold. So when I saw a recipe for watermelon gazpacho with cucumber and tomato, I knew this was something I had to try. I combined two recipes, one taken from Bon Appétit magazine and one from Eating Well and made it my own – which is something I often do. I added more basil, substituted honey for sugar, added more tomato, left out the olive oil and finally, substituted basil syrup for vinegar:

Watermelon Gazpacho

2 cups basil leaves

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1 ½ cups water

Place all of the ingredients above in a saucepan, boil, remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes.  Let cool and then strain.

7 cups seedless watermelon 1” pieces (I used the yellow melon from the box)

1 cucumber peeled, seeded, cut in 1” pieces (from the box)

½ red pepper diced

¼ cup basil (from the box)

¼ cup parsley

1 cup peeled, seeded diced tomatoes (from the box)

½ tsp salt

½ cup fresh lime juice

Ground fresh pepper

Make two shallow cuts through the skin at the bottom of the tomatoes.  Put in a pot of boiling water until skin lifts.  Run cold water over the pot until cool.  Peel and seed the tomatoes and dice.

Combine rest of ingredients as well as the syrup in a blender or food processor (you may have to blend in batches), until smooth.  Divide gazpacho among 6 bowls, garnish with pepper and torn basil leaves.

Per serving without olive oil:  111 calories, 1.3g fat, 206mg sodium, 26.6g carbohydrates, 10.6g fiber, 10.3g sugar, 4.6g protein

This gazpacho was unexpectedly delectable, both sweet and savory, and refreshing. I may add a jalapeño next time, I think it could have used a little kick, but we absolutely loved it and I think you will too!

So now the rest of the box.  String beans were sautéed with those amazingly crisp, pop in  your mouth sun gold cherry tomatoes.

I was so excited to get more arugula; I thought that would be finished for the summer!!  My favorite way to eat arugula is to shave Parmesan reggiano cheese on top, cut up more of those  sun golds , squeeze fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and  fresh ground pepper. Delish!!  Oh, and all those tomatoes, more about them next week.

Until next week, eat and savor the rest of your summertime veggies…