Two Weeks to a Slimmer Summer!

Summer fun and vacation time often bring some unwanted pounds with them. Slim down instead of letting it get you down at the end of summer. Try’s “I heart summer slim-down challenge” now!

Breaking Bread – Facts, Fiction & Fads

The first thing that comes to mind as I sit to write this article is how many puns and plays on words I can throw in. Something along the lines of what you “knead to know”, “let’s toast to toast!” and “the best thing since sliced bread”. But long, long before sliced bread, going all the way back about 12,000 years to the beginning of civilization, there were grains. Farming began in the “fertile crescent” of Mesopotamia (modern day Middle East) where the first crops are believed to be the ancestors of wheat and barley.

Since before recorded history, grains and bread have played a vital role in the diets and health of man as well as in the development of civilizations and wealth of nations. (Bread is a term we still use to mean “money”). History aside, honestly, who doesn’t like a warm, crusty loaf of fresh-baked bread? For the carbohydrate naysayers out there, I say that good carbs are not a thing of the past.

Let’s first look at the current state of health in America. Specifically, we are living in a nation where two-thirds of all adults are overweight and nearly 70 percent have high blood pressure, or are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

As a result, the food industry is under even greater pressure to formulate healthier foods that adhere to the updated guidelines. As consumers become increasingly concerned about health and wellness for themselves and their families, there are a myriad of opportunities for businesses that manage to meet the challenge of creating healthier products without sacrificing taste.

On a more personal level, whole grains in the diet not only can help you lose weight and keep it off, but they also can help reduce belly fat, lower blood pressure and keep you regular. Yes, you can break bread together again, but do it in the right way. I’m not telling you to run out and eat an entire loaf of bread at one sitting. Nor am I claiming that refined white flour is good for you. Quite the opposite — eat real, whole grain breads daily, but do so in moderation.

When it comes to bread, we don’t need any “reformulations” or claims of more fiber yet fewer whole grains and fewer calories per slice. (Check out the sodium content on your low-calorie packaged whole wheat bread for an eye-opener.) Instead, forget the calories per slice and simply focus on getting real whole grains in the form of fresh breads — ones that don’t come with labels and don’t contain the preservatives that make it last forever in your bread drawer.

A multitude of fresh bread varieties are now available in response to consumers’ desire to get “back to the basics.” Food artisans are both back and here to stay. Bread bakers have never disappeared, but they have not been given the recognition they deserve. This is perhaps the fault of whoever created and propagated the misguided message of “Thou shall never eat bread again if you ever want to lose weight.”

Which breads then are the best? Hence began my quest for the best and “healthiest” (in my opinion) multigrain loaf and best multigrain sandwich bread in the area. Bread is a hearty, nutritious, filling and satisfying part of a meal — think soup or stew with a big chunk of warm bread fresh out of the stone oven. I’m thankful for the trend in bread baking and other artisanal foods. It reminds me of the time of my life when I lived abroad and only bought bread from my local bakeries. Even if you can find “real breads” in large supermarkets, it’s
often more fun and pleasing to walk into a place that smells simply of warm, crusty, mood-enhancing, freshly baked loaves of grainy goodness! Your kids will love to see the big ovens and taste it while it’s warm.

So here are my favorite picks in the area:

Breadsmith in Cranford boasts a wonderful selection of breads period, but my personal winner is absolutely the “Marathon Multigrain”. (You don’t have to be a marathon runner to eat it, I promise.) For something lighter, you can choose from the multigrain sandwich, 100% whole wheat, rustic Italian, French peasant, Swedish Limpa Rye and Deli rye, as well as a variety of rolls too. Baker’s Bounty in Linden, whose breads can be found at Alan’s Orchard in Westfield, wins for their “multigrain sandwich” bread, and the rolls are wonderful too. I like to make my kids’ sandwiches on rolls as a switch from sliced breads.

Natale’s in Summit. They have a nice selection of whole-wheat loaves and rolls and an 8-grain with sesame loaf as well. I love their traditional rustic Italian, and the rye and pumpernickel are delicious too.  Disclaimer — don’t blame me if you buy and sample some of the other fabulous bakery treats that you see and smell at all of these places!
Remember, treats are treats and should be eaten in moderation. Great grains found in the form of nutritious, delicious fresh loaves of bread can and should be eaten daily. As I read recently on, “Bread has a long history for a reason. It is a healthy and nutritious food that fills the stomach as well as the soul.” I’ll toast to that!

Perfect Winter Squash Recipe for Thanksgiving

Simple, Savory Butternut Squash

1 Butternut squash, peeled and cut in small chunks
1 small white onion, peeled and sliced into small pieces
2-3 Tb. Olive oil
1-2 Tb. Orange juice
Fresh rosemary
Salt & pepper

Fill a medium-sized pot with about 1/2 inch of water and bring to a boil.  Add the butternut squash and cook covered for 7 minutes.  While squash is cooking, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the onion.  Sautee the onion on medium-low heat just until soft and translucent.  Chop about 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary and add to the onion.  Stir around and let simmer just a couple minutes. Add 1/4 tsp. salt.
Place cooked squash in a serving bowl, making sure to drain off any remaining liquid. Pour onion & rosemary mixture on top and toss evenly. Pour  on the orange juice and a bit of olive oil if desired. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper and toss to coat squash evenly. Garnish with a few sprigs of rosemary. Serve and enjoy!

Read my latest blog entry for more Thanksgiving recipe ideas

How to Cook Pumpkin Seeds

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Rub a little canola oil on your hands and then rub 1 cup pumpkin seeds in your hands to coat lightly. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Season with salt and curry powder to taste. Toss & bake another 5 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Enjoy!

The Local Scoop

When you’re the youngest of eight children, survival is the key! That’s probably why I learned the value of food early in life. I simply love food and cooking and have found that in this world of abundant food messages, sometimes TMI isn’t a good thing. I am here to weed through all of the food messages that we are confronted with everyday. Shopping tips, menu suggestions, local food treats, the latest food catchwords and trends; come here to find out about all things food-related!

Just because the calendar says it’s fall doesn’t mean we can’t all still scream for ice cream. It’s a great way to brighten those warm fall weeks when we leave the beach or pool and return to school and work. I have to admit, some of my earliest and favorite childhood memories involve ice cream. It is the one dessert that “always goes down” and still somehow always makes me feel better — it’s the ultimate treat any time of year.

For health and calorie-conscious consumers, “real” creamy indulgences may be regarded as “forbidden” treats of the past. That doesn’t have to be the case, however. For dieters, diabetics, non-dairy eaters, “real” ice cream lovers and everyone in between, there are some great options to enjoy.

Follow me on my local ice cream tour, which even includes directions on how to make frozen treats in your own home!

Go Gelato!

If a trip to Italy was not part of your summer vacation, you can get a taste of it right in the center of Westfield at the Chocolate Bar, which features homemade gelato made by owner and chocolatier Neil Grote. For those not in the know, gelato is much lower in fat than ice cream because it is made with 80% fat-free milk and only a small amount of heavy cream. A 4-ounce serving of basic gelato has only 3-4 grams of fat. On my little tour, I got to check out the imported Italian machines that were churning delicious creamy “soup” that smelled so good it made you want to dive right in! The gelato is made fresh daily, and the shop features 25 flavors that are rotated regularly. There are classic Italian flavors like stracciatella (chocolate chip), nocciola (hazelnut) and tiramisu, as well as ones with an American flair, including cookies & cream, peanut butter or “the works.” (Of course classic flavors like Neil’s truly scrumptious chocolate gelato are always a hit. )If you’re looking for something non-dairy and gluten-free with no artificial colors or flavors, the fresh fruit sorbets are a great, refreshing choice too. No matter what time of year you stop by the Chocolate Bar, there is “always something good and new,” says Neil. I have to agree, and it’s typically the first place I head to as a special after-school treat for the kids.

Good Old-Fashioned Ice Cream & More

Another local stop on my tour for some creamy treats was the Cranford Vanilla Bean Creamery, which opened in the spring under the new ownership of Ralph Kopelman. Here you can find a real full-fat creamy indulgence when you need one, and an occasional indulgence is not a bad thing. In fact, it can actually be a good thing to indulge every now and then; it helps you stay on a healthier diet regime if you don’t feel completely deprived. To make you feel even better, all of what Ralph has to offer — about 40 flavors in total — is made on the premises and, like the Chocolate Bar, is all fresh with only “real” ingredients. No added artificial colors or flavors are to be found in the ice creams or sorbets. In fact, the only thing green you might find in his mint chocolate chip ice cream is a fleck of fresh mint! (Some of Ralph’s kid flavors of Italian ices are the exception.) For kids who love soft-serve and Italian ices, which are excellent low and no-fat options, this must. For the blood sugar conscious, there are sugar-free ice creams as well.

Both of these establishments tempt you with seasonal offerings and a constant rotation of flavors. Fresh and real are what’s most important to this ice cream lover, and both offer exactly that.

Supermarket Scoops

The freezer section of any supermarket seems to have expanded with our waistlines! There are simply a huge variety of frozen treats. Here is my advice for picking out some tasty but still healthy frozen treats: avoid artificial flavors and colors — go for all-fruit bars or Italian ices and sorbets, particularly for kids. For lower-fat ice cream, try “slow -churned” in any brand. They have half the fat of traditional ice cream, so you lose the “bad” saturated fat but get all the creaminess.

Another option on your trip to the grocery store is to stock up on a few basic ingredients that you can use to make your own frozen treats at home.

Shake Up Some Homemade Ice Cream!
This is a great activity for kids & the easiest way to whip up some homemade fun (& burn calories while you’re at it!) Note: if it’s still really hot outside, I recommend doing this indoors or you will need to shake it longer.

What you need:

•1/4 cup Sugar
•1 1/2 cups Half-n-Half (or 1 cup whole milk & 1/2 cup heavy cream)
•1/2 tsp Vanilla
•1/2 cup Rock Salt (a coarse table salt that looks like ™little rocksº. Carried in most supermarkets, it is NOT the same thing as sea salt.)
•3-4 cups Ice
•2 1-gallon size Ziploc™ bags (do not use thin bags!)


Combine the sugar, half-n-half, & vanilla in 1  Ziploc™ bag & seal tightly. Combine the ice & rock salt in the other Ziploc™ bag. Place the bag of cream/liquid inside of the ice/salt bag & seal. Hold tightly to the edges & SHAKE the bag until the mixture turns into ice cream! This will take at least 5 minutes shaking time. Tip: Double bagging both is recommended to prevent any salt from getting into your ice cream bag. Additionally, you may want to wear gloves, as it gets pretty darn cold! If after shaking for at least 5 minutes it is not getting solid, it will definitely make a delicious real milkshake instead! Add sprinkles, candy, nuts, or fruit & enjoy!

Blend It Baby “Frozen Yogurt”
Super-fast, super-easy, super-good! It honestly doesn’t get easier or faster than this simple combo that makes a delicious & healthy dessert or snack any time of year. It is not quite a smoothie & not quite a frozen treat, and it should be consumed immediately. I make a quick trip to Trader Joe’s for these ingredients.

What you need:

•1 cup frozen mango chunks (or other frozen fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries or banana)
• 6 ounces vanilla yogurt

Pour in blender — blend until smooth & serve immediately. Thick and “creamy” good

Treat yourself to some September scoops, either at home or in a local shop! Enjoy!

Susan Greeley, a registered dietician of 15 years, received her Master of Science in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University in Boston and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Miami University in Ohio. She is a nutrition writer and consultant as well as the staff nutritionist for the Westfield Area YMCA. Susan lives with her husband and three children in Westfield and is working on a cookbook of her own.

The Best Ingredients for a Healthy Thanksgiving

I want to share a personal message to my readers as I start prepping for my favorite meal of the year.  A healthy attitude and lots of gratitude —  these are the best ingredients for the Thanksgiving holiday.

First and foremost, be thankful for your Health.  Don’t take it for granted and be responsible for yourself.  Throw out any self-defeating attitudes with the turkey carcass.  Next, enjoy real food this holiday. We live in a country where food is abundant.  Be thankful for it, take the time to make the real stuff,  and simply enjoy it.  Keep traditions going — Do fuss over certain foods!  Every family has “secret recipes” and favorite dishes.  That is why I will be making my dad’s amazing creamed onions and my husband’s grandmother’s Caribbean sweet potatoes (think rum, lime juice and spices.)   I want my kids to look forward to them every year and eventually learn how to make them.

Many families have traditions of doing nothing but eating on Thanksgiving, but the eating often doesn’t start until well after noon.  My first advice is “do not starve” before the meal.  Eat a good breakfast — this will ensure the cooks have energy and may prevent some low-blood-sugar-induced family feuds!  Another tip is to take a break for air. The meal will taste even better after getting fresh air and the blood circulating, so while the turkey’s cooking and the football game is boring, go for a family walk or play your own game of flag football.  Another idea is to run some races in the yard or around the house.  Kids and adults love this one!

Now I hope you’re ready to eat, drink and count your blessings — not calories!  Happy Thanksgiving.

Top 10 Foods to Eat on Thanksgiving

Who wants to hold back when it comes to a national celebration?  No one. Since we’re all prone to overindulging on Thanksgiving, here are the Top 10 Picks for ensuring you savor and survive America’s favorite day of feasting:

10. Shrimp cocktail. Begin with this tasty appetizer.  It’s loaded with selenium and a compound that accounts for the pink color of salmon – both of which are known for their antioxidant properties.

9.  Nuts. Mixed nuts make a great snack, especially for all the football watchers on T-Day.  Go for raw, dry roasted or reduced salt versions.

8. Red wine. Relax and enjoy a glass this holiday. You’ll be sipping some good-for-your-heart polyphenols.

7. Sweet potatoes. They’re full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes (before the marshmallows, that is!).

6. Cranberries. Most people eat them cooked into a sweet sauce, but any way you do it, these red jewels are great for you.  For a little more eating adventure, try out “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish.” It’s made with 3 simple superfoods that may boost your metabolism (cranberries, onions & horseradish).

5. Green beans. Even if you only eat the soupy, fried onion version, green beans are still beneficial.  A better-tasting and much healthier way to serve them is sautéed in olive oil with chopped celery and minced garlic – and topped with toasted almond slivers.

4. Cornbread. The homemade version is a whole grain bread that’s better for you than regular white flour dinner rolls.

3. Pumpkin pie. If you need to justify this favorite, think beta carotene!

2.  Pecan pie.  Despite being a “sugar bomb,” pecans are very nutritious.  And, since they’re also the only truly American tree nut, they belong at Thanksgiving. The bonus: pecans contain vitamin E and plant sterols (antioxidants) that help fight heart disease and cancer.

1.  Creamed onions. Ever heard of the French paradox?  This creamy, savory side dish is full of quercetin (a potent antioxidant) and is my family’s favorite part of the meal. Don’t miss out on these.  (Here’s the recipe.)

Just say “No” to mixed messages

For all the health and nutrition advice out there, it seems the holy grail of health continues to elude us.  Consumers are still bombarded by conflicting messages, so I continue my mission of trimming the (bad) fat and giving people the skinny on what’s really going to help them lose weight and achieve some personal health goals.   When I read the following excerpt from another registered dietitian’s article today about the book, The Gene Smart Diet, it triggered a reaction in me.  Conflicting advice and mixed messages abound in the press, which is apparent if you have read a recent TIME article about exercise as well.  Please read the excerpts followed by my comments.

Everyone knows that genes are responsible for the color of your eyes, your bone structure, and whether you’ll live to a ripe old age. But are your genes also the key to losing weight? According to The Gene Smart Diet, understanding how your genes work is the secret to weight control and reducing your risk of disease.

Wake Forest University professor, Floyd Chilton PhD, author of The Gene Smart Diet, says that our genes were simply not designed for today’s diets and lifestyles, and that this mismatch is causing us to miss out on important bioactive substances in food that send messages to our genes to keep us healthy.This mismatch, he says, has been a major contributor to the nation’s health crisis, including obesity and chronic inflammatory diseases.

But your genes are not indelible blueprints, Chilton says, and by following the Gene Smart Diet you can change the way your genes are expressed, which can lead to weight loss and better health.

“Follow my five simple diet and exercise strategies to get your genes to work for you and it will help you improve your health by reducing the likelihood of certain chronic disease, slow down the aging process, and accelerate weight loss,” Chilton says.

The five principles of The Gene Smart Diet are:

  • Exercising more.
  • Reducing calories.
  • Increasing fiber.
  • Adding omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Increasing polyphenols (a type of antioxidant found in fruits, vegetables, and tea).

(From a review of this book by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on WebMD)


About those five points.  Ok, the last three are good. I agree on all and actually spend a lot of time teaching people daily how to do exactly that — focus on getting enough good fats, fiber and phytochemicals.  It’s what I preach.  Back to the first two points … Who hasn’ t gotten the “exercise more” message by now?   But if you saw the recent TIME magazine article titled “The Myth About Exercise,” you  may be feeling confused, no?!   Here is an excerpt:

You’ve heard it for years: to lose weight, hit the gym. But while physical activity is crucial for good health, it doesn’t always melt pounds — in fact, it can add them.
(By John Cloud, TIME magazine, August 17, 2009)

Both authors may be well intentioned … but if nothing else, the TIME article’s title misleads readers, especially those looking for an out when it comes to exercise.  If they read the entire article, there is good information to take away, i.e. diet really does matter.  However, the title and introduction are all many people read.  In direct opposition, the seemingly helpful and simple edict of The Gene Smart Diet to “exercise more” does not necessarily speak the right message to individuals either.  What I am getting at is that we need to start defining the word “exercise”  or, better yet, start talking specifics about how Americans can simply increase daily activity.  For example, if as a nutrition counselor I tell someone to eat less fat, I am making some strong  assumptions that  1) They know what fat is and where it comes from. 2) They eat too much of it, particularly of the bad kind. Both assumptions could be false.  In fact, never make assumptions.  … That is why when someone professes that “you” (the plural), typically referring to the average American adult, should “exercise more” and “eat fewer calories,” I have to interject some information!  I conduct weight loss programs and counsel clients on weight loss.  I know their frustration with such information.  Many already exercise a lot, and I know many people who actually need to eat more calories (but perhaps different ones!)   Others can’t “exercise” due to health issues.   In other words, making blanket recommendations like that simply confuses and turns many consumers off.  In any case, it is time to start teaching people that it’s not really about exercise per se but about increasing activity. Period.  Take the pressure off people already! Get them m-o-v-i-n-g more!  Walk or a ride a bike and take the stairs. Carry your laundry basket up 2 flights of stairs.  Carry groceries to your car that is parked farther away than usual.  Why are we always saying how healthy the European lifestyle is yet not following it? Do they run to the gym before or after work like we do? Or feel guilty if they don’t? No. But many do ride a bike or walk to work or to the grocery store. My message: spend less time sitting during the day.  Some/any activity is better than no activity.  As for calories, each person has individual requirements.  It is possible to eat too few and not lose weight.  Consult a dietitian for a personal assessment of your daily calorie needs.

A Visit to The Farm at Broad Run in Virginia

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