Archive for June, 2012


There are so many “milks” out there nowadays. It’s confusing so I thought I’d simplify this for you if you were trying to figure out what to drink.

Milk is a great source of carbohydrate (coming from lactose, the milk sugar) and protein. It also has various amounts of fat in it, depending upon which one you choose. (Non-fat, 1%, 2% or whole.) But what makes milk special is that it has 8 grams of protein per cup. This is even more protein than what you would find in one cooked egg. Not bad.

Almond, rice, coconut and soy milk are non-dairy alternatives. Many people choose these if they don’t like milk, are vegetarians/vegans and don’t drink anything from an animal, or are sensitive to dairy products.

Almond, rice, and coconut can’t compare to milk when it comes to protein—they vary slightly in carbs and fat, but they all have a mere 1 g of protein per cup. They are all fortified with and same, if not more, Vitamin A, D and calcium as regular milk.

Soy milk is in a different league because unlike almond, rice and coconut milk, it is higher in protein—it has 6 grams per cup. Therefore, it’s much closer to milk in terms of protein. Soy has a unique flavor that some people find hard to get used to.

So if you’re looking for a milk alternative, give these a try but remember—they’re not equal substitutes nutritionally. If you’re looking to match milk’s protein level, try soy. If protein is not an issue for you but find that milk gives you some gastrointestinal disturbances, try almond, rice or coconut. They all have distinct flavors–I’m sure you’ll find one that you like.

My favorite it almond.

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Grilled Chicken with Strawberry-Peach Salsa


1½ lbs skinless, boneless thin chicken breasts

marinade for chicken

2 T lemon juice

2 t honey

2 t minced garlic

2 t olive oil

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground pepper

salsa ingredients

2 cups strawberries, diced

2-3 ripe peaches, peeled and diced

¼ cup scallions, finely chopped

½ cup red bell pepper, diced

1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes

2 T lemon juice

1 t lemon zest

2 t honey

2 t olive oil


In a shallow bowl combine marinade ingredients and whisk to combine. Place chicken in a Ziploc back, add the marinade and coat. Refrigerate for several hours or over night.

In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the salsa and stir to combine.

Grill the chicken 2-3 minutes per side or until cooked through. Serve the chicken with the salsa.

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What’s with me? I keep talking about protein. That’s because everywhere I go I see people eating very large portions of protein. Protein is a great nutrient but we don’t need so much of it.

I just want to show you how protein adds up. You might be surprised.

Let’s just quickly review. We calculate our protein needs  (to prevent a deficiency) by taking our body weight in kilograms and multiplying it by .8 grams. So, we would calculate the protein needs of  a 140 lb woman as follows:
140/2.2 = 63.6 kg x .8 g = 51 grams of protein.

Here we go………


½ cup oatmeal:                           5 g

1 cup skim milk:                          8 g

½ cup blueberries:                    .5 g

1 oz walnuts (about 14 halves): 4 g

Total for Breakfast:    17.5 g


low fat Greek yogurt:                  20 g   


large toss salad (about 3 cups)

with chopped vegetables

with olive oil and vinegar:             2 g

½ cup chickpeas:                            6 g

1 multigrain flat bread:                 9 g

1 large apple:                                   1 g

Total for lunch:                             18 g


air popped pop-corn (3 cups)      3 g

I actually don’t even have to include a detailed list of dinner. With just breakfast and lunch and two snacks, I already hit 58.5 grams of protein, which is already 7.5 grams over my target. And there were no eggs for breakfast and no giant sandwich for lunch! If this person ate a mere 3 ounces of chicken for dinner (very few people actually eat only 3 ounces), we can tack on another 27 grams bumping up our number to 85.5 grams and I haven’t even included vegetables or grains. See what I mean?

Protein is found in vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains and dairy products—not just in meat. If you eat these other nutrients, you WILL get enough protein to thrive.

Bottom line………it all adds up!

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Now here’s something interesting. People think chickpeas are “fattening”. After I posted my chickpea salad recipe, I got a few comments about my favorite legume. So, I figured I’d shed some light on chickpeas.

Nutritionally speaking, chickpeas have protein, fat and carbohydrates. For ½ cup of chickpeas, there are 2 grams of fat, which is less than the amount of fat you will find in 3 ounces of chicken breast. Plus, the fat in chickpeas is completely unsaturated. Not the case with chicken.

There are 6 grams of protein in ½ cup of chickpeas. This is same amount of protein you will find in 3/4 cup of milk.

There are 20 grams of carbohydrates in ½ cup of chickpeas. Don’t let that scare you—that’s equivalent to 1.3 ounces of whole grain bread—a decent slice. However, chickpeas are loaded with fiber. There are 7 grams of fiber in ½ cup, which means that they will really fill you up.

I think the chickpea discrimination is due to the association with hummus. Hummus is another story. Yes, it’s made with chickpeas. However, hummus also contains tahini, which is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini is similar to peanut butter—1 tablespoon has 100 calories and 9 grams of fat—it’s very calorie dense. One half cup of humus has twice the calories of chickpeas and 5 times the amount of fat. Plus, we often dip things in hummus and lose track of how much we’re actually eating. There in lies the danger.

You can roast chickpeas in the oven, make them into a salad or even toss them onto a salad. Bottom line: Chickpeas are a healthy, tasty legume–don’t be afraid of them!

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Chickpea Salad   


2, 15-ounce cans of chickpeas

1 cup red or yellow bell peppers cut into slivers

1/4 cup scallion, chopped

1 cup of cherry tomatoes cut into quarters

2 T fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing Ingredients

1 T fresh lemon juice

2 T olive oil

3 T water

1/8 t cayenne pepper

2 T rice vinegar

2 T fresh basil, chopped

1 T Dijon mustard


Place the chickpeas in a non-metal bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over them the chickpeas and marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Add the remaining ingredients, toss well, and serve.

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The glycemic index can be a helpful tool in understanding how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. Here’s how it works: Carbohydrates, which break down into glucose,  are given a number based on a scale from 1-100. Higher values mean a quicker rise in blood sugar and lower values mean a slower rise in blood sugar.

Remember–carbohydrates are not just bread, pasta and cereal. They are also starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and milk. Some carbs will break down slower (these are more desirable) while others break down much faster.

Let’s look at a quick example: Cherries have a score of 22 whereas watermelon has a score of 72. Both are fruit, and yet they react very differently in the body.

In general, high fiber foods will have a much lower score because fiber slows down the absorption of sugar.

The problem with the glycemic index is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. People associate low glycemic foods as being “healthy”. A Snickers Bar has a low score of 55. Does that mean we should head for the vending machine? Of course not. The reason for this low score is because a Snickers Bar is loaded with fat. Like fiber, fat will slow down the absorption of sugar.

So be careful when looking at this index. (You can find a variety of indexes on-line.) It does not tell us the caloric value of foods, which is key in losing weight.

The glycemic index IS a good tool but it’s certainly not the “end all, be all”.

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As some of you know, yesterday I went to Lenox Hill Hospital for some minor surgery. During my brief stay, I encountered two very smart medical professionals who, surprisingly, didn’t know all that much about nutrition.

The first was a bright, young, female anesthesiologist. I had a lengthy conversation with her because unlike most people, I chose not to have general anesthesia but, instead, opted for an epidural. It didn’t take her long to see that I was a bonafide control-freak-nut-job. So, naturally, what I did for a living came up in conversation.

As I was walking down the hallway to the OR in my hospital garb, she turned to me and said “So…….I shouldn’t eat rice, bread or potatoes?” We started talking about carbohydrates, portion control, and fiber. I couldn’t help but think, “Really? I’m giving nutritional counseling to the anesthesiologist NOW?”  And get this…….the questions didn’t stop. She was still firing them away as I walked into the OR and getting ready for surgery. It was surreal.

Flash forward to after the surgery. In the recovery room, I encountered a lovely middle-aged nurse. Since it was early in the morning, I was the only one she had to look after. We got to talking. Before I knew it, we were talking about her type-2 diabetes and the medication she was on. There I was explaining to her how the medication worked on her body, how to spread out her carbohydrates throughout the day, and how exercise affects her blood sugar. She asked me for my business card.

In both of these cases, I was surprised to learn how little these medical professionals knew about nutrition.  There is a lesson here: Don’t assume that medical professionals  know a lot about nutrition. They don’t. When seeking nutritional advice, you need to turn either to a Registered Dietitian or a Dietetic Technician, Registered for proper counseling. These professionals have the proper training and are food and nutrition experts.

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