Tips for Using Spices and Herbs for Low Sodium Cooking

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Hello lovelies!

In honor of the last day of National Nutrition Month, I thought we’d send off this year’s theme of “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” with some tips for using spices and herbs. Early in my career, I worked in a hospital setting and frequently provided diet counseling for those with congestive heart failure (CHF). With CHF and other heart-related conditions such as hypertension, reducing sodium intake is a must. Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with taste buds that can adapt to a tapering of salt/sodium. Check out my tips below!

 

  • Conversion: 1 tbsp fresh herb =  ½ tsp dry = ¼ tsp powdered.
  • Use sparingly – ¼ teaspoon per pound of meat or pint of sauce. You can always add more.
  • When doubling a recipe, add only 50 percent more seasoning.
  • “Freshen” herbs by crushing or rubbing between your fingers before adding to recipe.
  • In dishes requiring long cooking times such as stews, add herbs toward the end of cooking.
  • In chilled foods such as dips, salads and dressings, add herbs several hours ahead.
  • For maximum freshness, purchase in small quantities, keep in airtight containers.

Seasoning suggestions for Meat 

Beef                 Bay leaf, dry mustard, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, thyme

Chicken           Dill, mushrooms, paprika, parsley, sage, thyme

Fish                 Bay leaf, curry, dry mustard, lemon juice, paprika

Lamb               Mint, mint jelly, garlic, rosemary

Pork                Garlic, onion, sage

 

Vegetables

Asparagus       Lemon juice, toasted sesame seeds

Broccoli           Lemon juice, oregano

Cabbage          Dill, caraway seeds, savory

Carrots            Mint, nutmeg, parsley

Cauliflower     Nutmeg, tarragon

Corn                Chives, green pepper, tomatoes

Green Beans   Dill, lemon juice, marjoram, nutmeg, unsalted French dressing

Potatoes          Chopped green pepper, mace, onion, parsley

Squash             Ginger, mace, nutmeg

Tomatoes         Basil, green pepper, onion, oregano, sage

 

Ethnic dishes

Indian              Cardamom, cayenne, coriander, cumin, curry, garlic, ginger,mustard seeds, turmeric

Italian              Basil, bay leaf, cayenne, garlic, onions, oregano, thyme

Mexican           Cayenne, chili powder, chorizo, coriander, cumin, fresh chilies – green and red, garlic, oregano

Oriental           Cayenne, cumin, garlic, ginger, green pepper, sesame, sherry

 

Soups

Creamed         Bay leaf, dill, marjoram, paprika, peppercorns, tarragon

Vegetable        Basil, bay leaf, curry, dill, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, wine

 NOTE: Tomatoes and mushrooms used for seasonings should be fresh or unsalted canned. Also always make sure to use something listed as a powder versus a salt such as garlic powder instead of garlic salt.

What are your favorite herb/food combinations? Let’s chat!

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Panda Express {A First Time Visit}

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Panda Express for the first time. Being from the South, particularly Alabama, there hasn’t been an abundance of these restaurants around me. However, my town of Tuscaloosa is now one of four Alabama cities to have this “Gourmet Chinese” eatery. Now as I’m sure it is with most other small towns, Tuscaloosa is infamous for swarming new restaurants, all in the hopes of getting to eat there first and making recommendations to friends. It’s been that case for our Panda Express which has been opened for a few months yet has an unyielding drive thru line every time I drive by. However, I had a chance on Friday to finally try it in a desperate attempt to find something to eat near my work before my next patient was scheduled to see me.

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Since I hadn’t been to a Panda Express before, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what to order. I felt a little rushed to order so I was happy to see a little logo to let me know what the lower calorie entrees were. This little logo is known as the “wok smart” logo and indicates entrees that are 250 calories or less.

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I ended up getting a Panda Bowl which consists of one entree with a side. There were other combinations that you could do, including ordering two or three entrees which just seems like a lot of food to me (but ask me again when I’m super hungry). I decided to go with the Black Pepper Chicken and side of mixed veggies. The rice (both white and brown) were calling my name, but I knew I needed a veggie serving that day (and honestly I anticipated likely having a heavy dinner with the hubs later that night which did happen). All in all, my Panda bowl was allegedly 270 calories which isn’t too bad. The veggies in my bowl were bountiful and the mix of broccoli, carrots, peppers, and onions were pretty good. My only concern is the sodium which tops out OVER 1,500 milligrams which wouldn’t be conducive to the lifestyle of my patients with high blood pressure.

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photo 1Overall, I do think I tried to get the best choice possible for what was available. It isn’t my first choice in fast food, but  I would go back with the knowledge that it certainly wouldn’t be perfect eating.  I will say that it is better than many of the “mall food court” Chinese food I’ve sadly had in the past. The nutrition calculator that’s available on their website can be helpful for folks trying to find entrees that best fit their dietary needs, especially if specifically monitoring fat, sodium, carbohydrate content, etc.

photo 3 (2)I did get a pretty nifty fortune cookie and am actively on the lookout for my miracle 🙂

Have you ever eaten at a Panda Express? If so, what’d you think and what’d you order? Let’s chat!


Movie Theater Popcorn and Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizzas

A happy Friday to all of you! I hope everyone has some great things planned for the weekend. Last night I had the opportunity to watch Divergent with my book club. If you’re a fan of young adult fiction, I do believe you’d really like this series. I could go on endlessly about how I feel about the third book and the way the series ended, but I’ll refrain. As not to spoil anything about differences between the movie and the book, I’ll refrain from any details other than saying that I really enjoyed the movie last night 🙂

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Due to a busy schedule before getting to meet my friends, I was a little panicked about what to eat. I knew I wanted movie theater popcorn but wasn’t sure how much I wanted it as my full-fledged dinner, especially since we weren’t watching the movie until 8 p.m. I had to give a presentation to a student group at 6:30 p.m. and had run out of packed snacks in my purse. The building that I was speaking in had a small food court, including a Pizza Hut Express. Now mind you, when you reach Defcon 1 overt hunger, you pretty much pick foods based on what smells good versus thinking things through and making a healthful choice. Enter the supreme personal pan pizza. I would have taken a picture right when I picked it up, but I was so hungry I forgot. After I ate one of the four individual slices, I decided to stop. I knew that popcorn and a personal pan pizza would not make the most pleasant situation in my stomach. I didn’t want to waste the pizza either, so after flattening the whole thing with a napkin to get the grease out, I stuck the pizza box in a brown paper bag and into my purse, making my way to my lecture. One of the students said I smelled like really good pizza. GREAT!

This the pizza AFTER it had been to the movie theater with me stuffed in my purse and AFTER I gave the dog part of one of the slices. Doesn't really look so appetizing 5 hours after I bought it....

This the pizza AFTER it had been to the movie theater with me stuffed in my purse and AFTER I gave the dog part of one of the slices. Doesn’t really look so appetizing 5 hours after I bought it…. (Excuse the photo quality or lack thereof!)

pizza hut

Moving on to the movie theater popcorn. Have you ever wondered what makes movie theater popcorn so delicious? It might be the fact that they cook it in coconut oil. After doing some research on the internet, I found that a lot of movie chains are going cheap on this end and going back to canola oil. I decided to call the corporate office of the theater chain I was attending to see what they use. The lady on the phone told me that they did indeed use coconut oil. There’s been a lot of concern about movie theater popcorn but honestly, if you haven’t had it in forever, then go ahead and enjoy it. I’ve been in a bad habit the past few years of woofing down a small popcorn, adding the pseudo butter topping, and then sprinkling some regular and peanut butter M&M’s in the bag (oh good golly it’s delicious). I decided to be a little more healthful in my decision and went with a medium diet coke and a small popcorn sans candy. Now granted I still had the pizza stuffed in my purse (yes gross, I know). When I got home from the theater, I realized I was so engrossed in the movie (and perhaps a particular movie character…) that I only ate about 1/4 of this bag. The only thing that’s a bummer is that “unfresh” movie theater popcorn kinda tastes gross.
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To put a little more perspective on how many calories, fat, and saturated fat (often from coconut oil used to pop corn which gives a better mouthfeel) in your golden buckets of pleasure, check out the graph from City Girl Bites
***Popcorn Size ↓ Calories Total Fat Saturated Fat
Kid’s with butter 470 37 22
Kid’s without butter (5 cups) 300 20 14
Large with butter 1640 126 73
Large without butter (20 cups) 1160 77 55
Medium with butter 910 71 41
Medium with butter 1220 97 56
Medium without butter (11 cups) 650 43 31
Medium without butter (16 cups) 900 60 43
Small with butter 630 50 29
Small without butter (7 cups) 400 27 19

Are you a movie theater popcorn lover or a personal pan pizza lover? What about a Divergent reader? Let’s sound off here boys and girls! 🙂


The Best Roasted Vegetables EVER | Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right During National Nutrition Month

Hello folks! And a happy Wednesday to all of you! Since the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” I thought I’d share a delicious roasted vegetable recipe. If you Google “roasted vegetable recipes” and one of the first things that pops up is a link to a recipe called “The Best Roasted Vegetables Ever” then curiosity makes you want to find out if these are truly the best roasted vegetables ever 🙂 Today’s recipe is from The Wednesday Chef. I invite you to check out her blog; it has some pretty delicious looking goodies!

Happy veggies

Now I’m going to be honest. I love my vegetables, and I sure do love roasting them. But, I’ve got to come clear about why I hopped on the vegetable train last night. I get in the habit of calling my husband on the dot at 4 p.m. every day to get a game plan for dinner. Typically we decide if we’re doing leftovers, takeout, or one of us is cooking. After my husband told me we had the leftover pork and some deer meat he cooked last night, I knew that wouldn’t suffice for a well-rounded meal.
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There’s something about veggies that just makes me giddy. I really think it’s the variety of colors. I veered away from the original recipe just a bit with the addition of a small sweet potato. I love my beta-carotene, but I REALLY love a little bit of starch.IMG_1964I decided to use the beautiful dish my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas this year from Sur La Table. This picture doesn’t give this piece justice but let me just say, IN.LOVE.

IMG_1971Veggies are chopped up and ready for a mixing with herbs and olive oil.

IMG_1984Gorgeous, beautiful color!

IMG_2006And here’s a close up of the veggies post roast. DE.LISH,US!

And here’s the recipe!

Roasted Vegetables
The Wednesday Chef
Serves 6 as a side dish

1 medium onion
1 medium or 2 small carrots
1 zucchini
1 eggplant
2 small potatoes
5 small tomatoes
1 red or yellow pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, wild fennel are all good choices – either individually or combined in some form)
4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C). Quarter and slice the onion thinly. Dice all the vegetables into pieces that are approximately the same size (no larger than 1/2 inch). Pile the vegetables into a baking dish so that the vegetables lie a few inches thick. Season with salt, pepper and herbs to taste and then pour the olive oil over the vegetables. Mix thoroughly but gently – you don’t want to destroy the tomatoes before the dish goes into the oven. Now check the vegetables to make sure they are well-coated and glistening with oil. If need be, add more oil.

2. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Halfway through the cooking process, remove the dish from the oven and very gently stir the vegetables so that the ones at the bottom come to the top. Towards the end of the cooking process, stir a second time. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Check for seasoning and serve.

Now, if you’re a newbie at roasting vegetables and want to try other roasted veggie combinations, some of the best tips and tricks can be found from 100 Days of Real Food so please check it out!

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Potatoes and a little Happy St. Patty’s Day!

a little saltyHello friends! I hope you all had a lovely St. Patty’s Day! Last night I had the pleasure of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with my church small group. Our small group centers around food (of course) while we enjoy our book this semester, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Alabama resident, Sophie Hudson. Since our gathering fell on St. Patty’s Day, we thought we’d go with a potato bar theme….no toppings left behind, especially pulled pork barbecue (we’re in the South for goodness sakes). Here’s a little schooling on our Irish Potato connection.

Our group is all about some appetizers, main course, and dessert :D

Our group is all about some appetizers, main course, and dessert 😀

Now I will say that potatoes do tend to get a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, weight management, etc. The truth is, potatoes are a wonderful bundle of nutrition but are often the medium of added fat and salt from how they are prepared.

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If you keep the skin on your delicious potato, you’ll be consuming a good 2 grams of fiber. The skin is also packed with B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and potassium. Eating an entire potato with skin gives you about 620 milligrams of potassium depending on the size.  Usually we like to add copious amounts of butter, salt, sour cream and cheese to our potatoes or just toss them in a deep fryer.  If you’re looking for potatoes on the lighter side, I invite you to try one of my favorite potato recipes from Cooking Light Magazine. Check it out and let me know what you think. I’ve included a delicious photo from MyRecipes.com.

Roasted Potato Salad with Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Stylist: Cindy Barr

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Stylist: Cindy Barr

Ingredients
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into wedges
3 Tb extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 Tb sliced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 Tb white wine vinegar
2 Tb minced shallots
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Preparation

1. Place a large heavy baking sheet in oven. Preheat the oven to 400° (keep the baking sheet in oven as it preheats).

2. Combine potatoes, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, garlic, and thyme in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Arrange the potato mixture on preheated baking sheet, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until browned and tender, turning after 20 minutes.

3. Combine remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, vinegar, shallots, Dijon mustard, and tarragon in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over potatoes.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 145
  • Fat: 5.1g
  • Saturated fat: 0.7g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.7g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.5g
  • Protein: 2.9g
  • Carbohydrate: 21.6g
  • Fiber: 1.5g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0mg
  • Iron: 1.1mg
  • Sodium: 218mg
  • Calcium: 7mg

Shube Sauce and Mr. P’s BBQ Sauce

Okay folks, I’m definitely in “foodie mode” today. Over the weekend I had the pleasure of trying out two delicious sauces that were part of my speaker “swag bag” given to me after presenting at ALDA last week. The hubs and I decided to put a Boston butt in the slow cooker as the perfect medium for enjoying these Alabama local sauces.

sauceThe Rob Berglin’s Shube Sauce is a creation straight out of Fairhope, AL and is known as a Gulf Coast “universal condiment.” I noticed the Shube Sauce had a sweet, vinegar base that can definitely hold its own.

shube sauceMr. P’s (Pilleteri’s) Sauce is a well-known commodity in Birmingham. In fact, it has even been voted as “Best Sauce in Town” by Birmingham Magazine. My hubby was particularly excited about the Mr. P’s being a Birmingham native who’s grown up on many Mr. P’s products. It is also a sweet sauce and very reminiscent of an Arby’s sauce with a little bit more awesome.

mr p sauceWith the pork butt that my husband got, we decided to fashion the rub from this recipe at chow.com give or take a few ingredients.

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When all was said and done, I really enjoyed tonight’s dish. We ended up mixing a little bit of both the Shube Sauce and Mr. P’s. The recipe from chow.com was different from the rub my husband usually does…especially with the call for cumin. This definitely did not taste like the traditional type of roast we usually have at our house and was more so reminiscent of the flavors of a Cuban pork, black bean, and rice dish that I had in Los Angeles almost 10 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, this meat was delicious on the onion roll, but I think our game plan for dinner tomorrow night is to make some delicious black beans and rice to go along with the pork. I will keep you all posted! 🙂

Bottom line: definitely give Shube Sauce and Mr. P’s Sauce and products a go the next time you’re in the Alabama Gulf Coast or Birmingham area. And for my Alabama native readers, please share your favorite dishes to use Shube Sauce and Mr. P’s products! 🙂

Until next time!


Alabama Dietetic Association Annual Meeting

Hello friends! As always, Happy National Nutrition Month! Once again, I’ve left our annual Alabama Dietetic Association meeting recharged and excited about learning new ideas and catching up with old colleagues and friends. This was an extra exciting year for me to participate not only as an attendee but also as a speaker in one of the breakout sessions to share the efforts of the Alabama Obesity Task Force that you might remember me mentioning last year.

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I’m excited for my upcoming posts, especially since I’ll be talking in detail about some of the yummy and interesting items I found at the Food and Nutrition Expo geared towards our school nutrition folks. I honestly probably ate my weight in commercially prepared whole grain pizza and pastas. All of the different products out to meet the USDA school nutrition guidelines blew my mind and made me wish we had some of these products when I was in school.

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Another highlight of the meeting was getting to listen to and meet Kathleen Zelman, registered dietitian and Nutrition Director for WebMD. After meeting Ellie Krieger in the fall, I feel like my bucket list of meeting all-star dietitians is slowly but surely getting checked off. I loved Kathleen’s inspiration and reminder that as a dietitian, we live in a world where we are constantly competing with the pretty and famous about nutrition advice. As a registered dietitian, we definitely have to stand our ground as the most qualified in providing nutrition advice. I could go on my personal soap box about this so I am glad that Kathleen reminded both students and seasoned RDs about this.

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Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD,LD

Last, but not least, our state association was able to celebrate Alabama’s very own, Evelyn Crayton, Ed.D, RD,LD as newly elected president-elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Super proud to be a dietitian in Alabama…such an exciting time for our state!

Dr. Evelyn Crayton during the ALDA Business Meeting Luncheon

Dr. Evelyn Crayton during the ALDA Business Meeting Luncheon

Okay folks, I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve got some upcoming posts on some featured products from the Food Expo that I don’t think you want to miss 🙂


Taking Time with Meals and Snacks

food-clock

With the “spring forward” time change upon us, I thought I’d talk a little about timing. For some folks, timing and length of meals and snacks can make a difference in weight gain or weight loss.

Timing Your Meals

When it comes to the timing of our meals and snacks, avoid going longer than 4 hours without eating anything (ideally you want to try to eat about every 2 ½ to 3 hours). If you’re in a meeting or running errands during a meal time, make sure to at least have a snack (trail mix, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, etc.,)  to tie you over until you can get an actual meal. If you’re going out with the girls for dinner or any other meal, try to avoid being ravenously hungry when you get to the restaurant. To do this, have a snack such as a small peanut butter sandwich or an apple about 30 minutes to an hour before going out to eat. This snack will help curb your appetite so that you’re still hungry enough to enjoy your main entrée but you’re not so hungry that you mindlessly eat copious amounts of chips and salsa, bread and butter, or any other pre-entrée items that are usually served at restaurants.

Taking Time with Your Meals

Are you a quick eater?  Hectic schedules and society in general tend to make us eat quickly out of necessity. Unfortunately though, rapid eating leaves little opportunity for our body to provide us the sensation of fullness. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx) since our brain and stomach have finally caught up with us.

Slow down your pace of eating so that it takes you at least 15-20 minutes to eat your meal. One way to accomplish this is making sure to put down the fork in between every bite of food. Sometimes we end up eating so quickly and we end up already having the 4th bite of mashed potatoes ready to go on our fork before we’ve even completely swallowed our first initial bite!  Other ways you can slow your pace of eating include taking a sip of water (or other low calorie beverage) in between bites of food or even having conversation in between bites of food. Slowing down your pace of eating not only helps with getting full off of a smaller portion size but also allows you to take time to really enjoy and savor each bite of food.

And…..March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”  By timing our meals and taking time with our meals, we can really enjoy and savor how delicious and healthy food can be. I’ll be having more upcoming posts about National Nutrition Month, including my upcoming trip for the Alabama Dietetic Association annual meeting so stay tuned!!


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