Category Archives: Mediterranean diet


EDIT: This is my 500th post!!!!! Time flies when you’reΒ  having fun!!!


A quick hair update: It is no longer PURPLE! Thanks for all of your hair disaster advice. After placing that awkward phone call yesterday morning, the salon scheduled me in to get things fixed. Sixty minutes of bleaching later, it was much improved. Not back to normal, but I don’t look like Barney…a small big victory!


Apparently I’m just full of grocery store stories, because I’ve got another one for ya.

When I was oogling over the king crab legs this weekend, I also found LIVE mussels for $4.99/3 lbs!!! Holy good deal on seafood…sold! The lady at the seafood counter put the mussels in a bad and told me to leave it open so they could breathe. She instructed me to place them on ice in a bowl, in the fridge when I got home and to eat them within 48 hours. Okay, cool.

So then I’m checking out at the grocery store and my mussels didn’t have a price tag. The checker asked the bag boy (a young teenage guy) to run back to the seafood department and get a price. He grabbed the bag, cutting off air flow to the mussels. When he got to the seafood department he was quickly scolded with a, “Open that bag!! Let them BREATHE!!!” Very confused, the teen quickly put 2 and 2 together — the seafood in his hands was ALIVE.

He got the price and returned to the check out line with a disgusted look on his face. “You do know these things are ALIVE, right?” he says to me. I smile, very aware of the living creatures I want to take home, steam, and enjoy πŸ˜€ The poor kid turned a faint shade of green and I’m a bit surprised he didn’t throw up right then and there. Hilarious.

His loss. Mussels are amazing! πŸ˜€

However, I had never steamed live mussels myself. [Thank goodness they don’t scream like lobsters when you drop them in boiling water. The animal lover in me wouldn’t handle that very well…that much I know.]

Mussels show no signs of life until you tap the slightly opened ones on the counter to see if they close completely. If they close, obviously they’re alive. If they’re open and don’t close with a tap, they’re dead and should not be eaten. Easy enough, and talk about entertaining. ::tap tap tap::




Note: 1 out of every 8-10 mussels were dead — not too many.


White Wine Steamed Mussels

1 cup white wine
2 Tbsp Smart Balance Light
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 lbs live mussels, or more


Discard any opened mussels. Scrub mussels to remove dirt, sand, etc. In a large pot, combine the wine, butter, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Put mussels into pot and cover with a lid. Steam over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until mussels open. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information (approximate): Mussels are ~14 calories/ea.; 0.3 g. fat; 1.9 g. protein

Result: Just as good as in Italy! Maybe even better πŸ˜‰ I’ll admit to be intimidated by steaming live mussels but this was CAKE! Mr. Prevention was totally impressed and even asked, “Were they hard to make?” Far from…ready in 10 minutes from start to finish! They are a great protein addition to a more intricate side dish. And healthy!

(Random) Question: What’s your favorite animal?

I LOVE penguins! Bulldogs are cute, too…but they’re sure demanding πŸ˜‰

I’ll share the delicious side dish I served with those stunning mussels tomorrow… πŸ˜‰

Mussel up,



Filed under butter, dinner, dog, garlic, grocery store, healthy cooking, Italy, low-carb, Mediterranean diet, pets, protein, recipe, Uncategorized, wine

Healthiest Ethnic Cuisines

I love to dine out, don’t you? Delicious meals without the dishes….glorious!

So where to dine if you’re being health-conscious? What ethnic cuisine offers the most nutritionally sound options? Take a guess.

Think about it…..

Think harder….

Are you sure?


You’re probably wrong…

Is that your FINAL answer?

Last chance…

Are you sure this time?


Okay, then.

What’s your answer?

Well, says:

  1. Greek
  2. California Fresh
  3. Vietnamese
  4. Japanese
  5. Indian
  6. Italian
  7. Spanish
  8. Mexican
  9. South American
  10. Thai

Interesting, right?

Greek tops the ethnic health charts, but not because of spanikopita and gyros, I assure you. Greek cuisine is, however, packed with mono and polyunsaturated fats found in oils and olives and offers beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and garlic in abundance. In short, Greek food offers the quintessential Mediterranean fare that boasts its proven heart health benefits.

California Fresh offers fresh, local food that features fruits, vegetables, and all-natural meats. Seems like an obvious healthy choice.

A surprise to me: Mexican. The article talks about tomato-based sauces, soups, and beans. Somehow, that’s not what I envision, even walking into an authentic Mexican restaurant. Hmm…

Question: What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine? Do you think it offers healthy options?

Off to get my hair did! πŸ˜€ Eyebrows, too!


Filed under dining out, Mediterranean diet

Tour of Europe

You guys requested Italy pictures and a re-cap, so here it is!

Even I am envious of my adventures after looking back at these pictures! But I must remind myself (and you guys!) that I did endure a long-distance relationship across the world for 2 years. While our adventures were far and few between, these pictures capture the time my husband (fiancΓ© at the time) spent traveling and eating around Europe during 2007 and 2008.

During my engagement, I am blessed enough to have traveled to:

Italy (Milan, Rome, Venice, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and other small cities)
Switzerland (just for shopping!)
France (Paris and Nice)
Greece (Athens and the islands of Poros, Hydra, and Aegina)
Spain (Barcelona)
United Kingdom (London)

We lived in the first floor of this villa…

And ate our meals at this table…

…which were prepared in this kitchen…

The villa was in hiking distance of this waterfall…

And I walked this route to the gym each day…

And travel pictures in no particular order…

Athens, Greece

Greek Isles — had to take a picture with the bullbaby!

Pesto Calamari Tortellini (drooool!)


Dinner on the Venice Canal

Paris, France — Eiffel Tower at Night πŸ™‚

Gelato in Italy — I always got the “Viagra” flavor because I thought it was funny. I know, I’m soooo mature πŸ™‚

Poros Island — a HUGE thumbs up to fresh seafood (even though I’m not a HUGE octopus fan!)

Switzerland outlet mall shopping — Gucci “Big Bird” jacket = 900 Euros (~1450 USD) – bargain! ..maybe to those who don’t shop at Target…

We used to go on runs together in Italy and hubby would always beat me. Sometimes, I came home to jugs of water and sweet notes in the entry way πŸ˜‰

[I let him beat me!]

Lago D’Orta, Italy

My love for mussels only grew into a PASSION!

Cruising to the Greek Isles on a perfect, sunny day!

I’m ashamed to admit that MY husband consumed pepperoni and FRENCH FRY pizza. Regardless of his pizza selections, Italian pizza is something everyone should savor at some point in life. Deeelicious!

Don’t judge…wine was cheaper than water! No lie! πŸ˜‰

Nice, France in November…gorgeous!

Paris, France – Notre Dame Cathedral

Pisa, Italy – My buff, buff hubby! πŸ˜‰

Venice, Italy – my favorite Italian city

I developed a love for photography though my skill is very minimal…

We also had our engagement pictures taken in Italy on top of Sacro Monte, a mountain in northern Italy. We lucked out in having such gorgeous, one-of-a-kind engagement pictures! πŸ™‚

Ahhh….what a wonderful time it was! I can’t wait to get back over the pond someday! πŸ™‚

Reminder: Don’t forget to enter the Larabar Giveaway! 5 chances to win, 3 winners! Don’t miss out! Go here!

Heather is having a fun Giveaway (which includes a Larabar!)! Go here to enter!

Q&A nutrition questions can be sent to!

Question: If you could travel just ONE place in the world RIGHT NOW, where would you choose to go?


Filed under blog topic request, dining out, dinner, dog, exercise, Giveaway, Italy, Mediterranean diet, pizza, restaurant, running, travel, Uncategorized, wine

Email forward fallacies and olive oil for ulcers

I don’t send forwards. Never have, never will. I got a forward today about fruit, so I opened it as it was from my aunt who knows I’m a dietitian. I was nearly in tears I was laughing so hard. Check it out:
It’s long but very informative
We all think eating fruits means just buying fruits, cutting it and just popping it into our mouths. It’s not as easy as you think. It’s important to know how and when to eat.
What is the correct way of eating fruits?
If you eat fruit like that, it will play a major role to detoxify your system, supplying you with a great deal of energy for weight loss and other life activities.
FRUIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FOOD. Let’s say you eat two slices of bread and then a slice of fruit. The slice of fruit is ready to go straight through the stomach into the intestines, but it is prevented from doing so.
In the meantime the whole meal rots and ferments and turns to acid. The minute the fruit comes into contact with the food in the stomach and
digestive juices, the entire mass of food begins to spoil….
So please eat your fruits on an empty stomach or before your meals! You have heard people complaining – every time I eat watermelon I burp, when I eat durian my stomach bloats up, when I eat a banana I feel like running to the toilet etc – actually all this will not arise if you eat the fruit on an empty stomach. The fruit mixes with the putrefying other food and produces gas and hence you will bloat!
Graying hair, balding, nervous outburst, and dark circles under the eyes all these will NOT happen if you take fruits on an empty stomach.
There is no such thing as some fruits, like orange and lemon are acidic, because all fruits become alkaline in our body, according to Dr. Herbert Shelton who did research on this matter (is this even grammatically correct??).  If you have mastered the correct way of eating fruits, you have the Secret of beauty, longevity, health, energy, happiness and normal weight.
When you need to drink fruit juice – drink only fresh fruit juice, NOT from the cans. Don’t even drink juice that has been heated up.
 Don’t eat cooked fruits because you don’t get the nutrients at all. You only get to taste. Cooking destroys all the vitamins.
But eating a whole fruit is better than drinking the juice. If you should drink the juice, drink it mouthful by mouthful slowly, because you must let it mix with your saliva before swallowing it.
 You can go on a 3-day fruit fast to cleanse your body. Just eat fruits and drink fruit juice throughout the 3 days and you will be surprised when your friends tell you how radiant you look!
Drinking Cold water after a meal = Cancer! Can u believe this?? For those who like to drink cold water, this article is applicable to you. It is nice to have a cup of cold drink after a meal. However, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed. It will slow down the digestion. Once this ‘sludge’ reacts with the acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal.
A serious note about heart attacks HEART ATTACK PROCEDURE: (THIS IS NOT A JOKE!) Women should know that not every heart attack symptom is going to be the left arm hurting. Be aware of intense pain in the jaw line. You may never have the first chest pain during the course of a heart attack. Nausea and intense sweating are also common symptoms. Sixty percent of people who have a heart attack while they are asleep do not wake up. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let’s be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive…was this forward about cancer and fruit or heart attacks? I’m now confused…..
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this mail sends it to 10 people, you can be sure that we’ll save at least one life.

Read this….It could save your life!!

*EYE ROLL* It SCARES me that there’s this kinda crud floating around! Much less, people are reading and believing it! Research health claims that you hear and ask your medical provider before falling for any fallacies out there!

On a completely unrelated note….

While I like to think I teach patients things, they also teach me things, too! Like this week, for example, a patient asked, β€œIs it true that olive oil helps prevent stomach ulcers?” After swallowing my pride just a bit, I responded with an, β€œI’m not sure, but I’ll get back to you!”

Ends up, olive oil DOES help to prevent stomach ulcers according to WedMD.

A Spanish study from 2007 suggested virgin olive oil may help prevent and treat H. pylori infections, a leading cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers. Lab testing revealed that the antioxidant compounds found in virgin olive oil are effective against several strains of H. pylori. Other natural products such as red wine, green tea, and cranberry juice are rich in a class of antioxidants known as phenolic compounds, which can inhibit the growth of H. pylori [1].

Phenolic compounds are found to have strong antibacterial properties. Lab results show olive oil’s phenolic compounds are effective against 8 strains of H. pylori, including 3 that are resistant to some antibiotic treatments [1]. Go virgin olive oil!

[1]. Warner, Jennifer. Olive Oil May Prevent Ulcers. WebMD. February 13, 2007.

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Filed under antioxidants, cancer, complimentary and alternative nutrition, fruits and vegetables, healthy cooking, Mediterranean diet, research study, work


America’s doughnut-loving, beer-guzzling Homer Simpson and his cartoon family have been chosen by the Department of Health to help promote its anti-obesity campaign. While the government is spending mega bucks on sponsoring episodes of The Simpsons for three months to promote its anti-obesity campaign, they seem reluctant to endorse fully the family’s eating habits. The chose slogan for the campaign is “Supporting the Simpsons: Sometimes [1].”

Officials state that despite unruly behavior, Bart Simpson participates in the recommended 60 minutes of exercise daily, while his sister, Lisa, is a vegetarian and likely consuming the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. At the beginning of sponsored episodes, the posed cartoon characters will be shown sitting on the sofa eating pizza, ice cream, and chips. The characters will then have their food disappear, and replaced with food items such as carrots, apples, and pears [1].

Gillian Merron, the public health minister states, “The Simpsons are a much-loved, close-knit family facing some of the everyday challenges that modernday families go through. They provide a popular and engaging way to get the message to real-life families about simple ways of improving their diet and activity for a healthier lifestyle.” Professor Gerard Hastings makes a valid point in explaining how the public may be more likely to listen to healthy-living tips if they come from imperfect characters [1]. 
On a completely unrelated note, more research in support of a Mediterranean diet…

Don’t wait til you feel blue to consider adopting the Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts. Those following the Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop depression, according to a Spanish study. The study results offered a 42-51% reduction in relative risk of developing depression, reports Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, chair of preventative medicine at the University of Navarra [2].

Known for its recommended use in preventing heart disease and stroke, the Mediterranean diet is one of few diets to be assessed for its effect on mental function. Data for this study was collected between 1999 and 2005, including more than 10,000 adults. All participants did not suffer from depression at the beginning of the study. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed by measuring nine components such as low meat intake, moderate intake of alcohol and dairy, and high fruit, vegetable, nut, cereal, and fish intake [2].

After an average follow-up time of 4.4 years, the rate of depression among those adhering to the assessment measures consistent with the Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower incidence of depression when compared to those who opted not to follow the assessment measures consistent with the Mediterranean diet. Even lower rates of depression were noted in individuals consuming more fruits, vegetables, and olive oil [2].

Martinez-Gonzales proposes the role of the Mediterranean diet in the proper functioning of the endothelium, the delicate inner lining of blood vessels, which is involved in the production of brain-deprived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is responsible for the growth and function of nerve cells and thought to be responsible for some depression cases. Similar to Prozac, olive oil improves the binding of serotonin to its receptors, increasing the availability of serotonin to the brain [2].

This diet is proposed as a possible means of lowering risk for depression, rather than a treatment for depression, notes Martinez-Gonzales [2].

Yesterday’s diabetic diet looked like this:

1 1/2 cups Cheerios (2 carbs)
1 cup skim milk (1 carb)
6 ounces fat-free cappuccino from QT (1 carb)
     Total: 4 carbs

banana (2 carbs)

1 1/2 cups vegetarian chili (3 carbs)
1/2 small pumpkin roll slice (1 carb)
     Total: 4 carbs

6 peanut butter crackers (1 carb)
2/3 cup pasta (2 carbs)
1 pear (1 carb)
     Total: 4 carbs

3 graham cracker squares (1 carb)
1 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter (0 carbs)
     Total: 1 carb

[1]. Martin, Arthur. DoH! Government Selects Doughnut-Loving Simpsons to Front New Healthy Living Campaign. Mail Online. October 5, 2009.
[2]. Edelson, Ed. Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression. HealthDay News. October 5, 2009.

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Filed under diabetes, diet, fruits and vegetables, Mediterranean diet, research study

Review of the Flat Belly Diet

I’m surprised I don’t hear MORE about fad diets, but after a patient told me about the “Flat Belly Diet” and her consumption of “Sassy Water” I just had to delve deeper.
WebMD performed a thorough amount of research on the current diet trend, commonly referred to as the “Flat Belly Diet”. The cover of the book instructs a flat tummy being thanks to food and attitude…not crunches. Oh, and for the record, exercise is encouraged…but not necessary.
The Flat Belly Diet includes four 400-calorie meals spaced 4 hours apart. Prior to starting on this plan (to be followed for 28 days), however, Flat Belly dieters are to go through a four-day “anti-bloat jump-start”, knocking their calories down to 1,200-1,400 calories a day. During this time, it is instructed that dieters consume 2 liters of “Sassy Water” — water chilled over night with cucumber, lemon, ginger, and mint leaves. Volunteers explains that the Sassy Water “reduced bloating, constipation” and helped them rid of the “sluggish feeling” [1]. Interesting thought…sounds delicious!
After the four-day jump start, Flat Belly dieters consume their four 400-calorie meals that are consistent with a Mediterranean-style diet with a strong emphasis on monounsaturated fat, which are consumed at every meal from sources such as olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, soybean, flax, and olive and sunflower oils. Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and nutrition director at Prevention, states that research has linked monounsaturated fatty acids to belly fat reduction [1].
Belly Fat dieters do not count calories. Rather, they choose from a list of 28 interchangeable mix-and-match breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snack packs. Eight recipes are also included with a nutrition analysis including calories, protein, carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber [1].
Depending on the combination dieters choose, it is possible to intake 40% of calories in the form of fat on the Flat Belly Diet — this exceeds the National Institutes of Health’s recommended 20-35% of calories from fat. Individuals can, however, go online to configure a diet providing a total calorie intake between 1,200 and 2,000 [1].
The diet “works” based off the premise of calorie restriction (1,600 calories a day), consuming a monounsaturated fat at each meal, eating every 4 hours, and getting regular exercise (though it is listed as “optional”) in order to produce belly weight loss of 15 pounds in 32 days [1]!
What does Mayo Clinic say?
Dr. Michael Jensen, Mayo Clinic obesity researcher and endocrinologist specialist, states that while excess belly fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it is premature to associate belly fat loss with a specific food (MUFAs) or diet plan, such as the Flat Belly Diet. Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, encourages consumers to remember the acronym “SED” which stands for “strength”, “exercise”, and “diet” when wishing to address belly fat. Those seeking belly weight loss should STRENGTH train to build and preserve muscle mass, EXERCISE aerobically on a regular basis to burn calories, and focus on DIET to include a healthy, calorie-controlled intake which includes healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats, over the unhealthy trans and saturated fats [1].
While the Flat Belly Diet can certainly produce weight loss, always consider the feasibility of a diet long-term. Weight loss and maintenance goes beyond one’s ability to follow a meal plan for 32 days, so I encourage everyone to find a sustainable, healthy approach suitable for themselves, whatever that may be.
[1]. Zelman, Kathleen M. The Flat Belly Diet. WebMD: Expert Review.


Filed under diet, dietitians, exercise, Mediterranean diet, MUFAs and PUFAs, reduced-calorie, water, weight loss

Go Greek!


Surprisingly, I’m not talking about gyros or saganaki, but rather, a study on the Mediterranean diet performed by the Medical School at the University of Athens, Greece. We’ve all likely heard of the Mediterranean Diet, but let’s refresh. Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include:

– plentiful exercise and meal times shared with family and friends

– consuming many fruits and vegetables daily
– including healthy oils in the diet such as olive and canola oils
– eating nuts (in small portions)
– the option of moderate red wine consumption
– marginal red meat consumption
– the incorporation of seafood and fish into the diet, at least twice weekly
– low dairy consumption

The Mediterranean “diet” is a

lifestyle for Europeans residing in Greece, Italy, and Spain most respectively. It is true that these countries consume an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, fish, oils, and in moderation, wine and alcohol. The positive health benefits of this Mediterranean diet were discovered over 30 years ago and have been a topic of much interest ever since.

During mine and my husband’s stint in Italy, we quickly learned that meal time was a sacred family time. The focus was not simply eating, but cooking, relaxation, and socialization. Wine was commonly consumed, even in places of business! At Mark’s work, there was a bar in the lobby serving alcoholic beverages, as well as cafes, espressos, and cappuccinos. Wine was served at restaurants for prices totaling less than water by volume at times. The abundance, selection, and freshness of produce found at stands street-side, as well as in the “lunga’s” (grocery store) far exceeded that found in America. And while fast food restaurants are not omit from European cities, they are not found on every street corner, but are spotted in places of heavy tourist traffic. But, of course.

Greece we found to be very similar. In Athens, moderate alcohol consumption and fruits and vegetables were staple items in most meals, along with lots of seafood and olive oil. Delicious!

Pictured on the left, fresh catch of the day coming in to the port of Poros. On the right, I give a BIG 2 thumbs up to fresh octopus! Yumm!

You can’t forget the pistachios in Greece — the best!

Greeks also have excellent taste in canines. We had to stop and say hi to the fellow bully and bully owner. : )

Mark and I in Athens at the Acropolis and the island of Poros

So what is it, specifically, in this Mediterranean diet that produces the proven health benefits? Is it the exercise? The healthy oils? The omega-3’s found in fish? Athens found out.

Published just last week in the

British Medical Journal were the results of a large-scale study aimed at revealing the relative importance of each component of the Mediterranean Diet. There were 23,349 Greek study participants ranging in age between 20 and 86. Their diet was recorded over an average span of 8.5 years. Both demographics and anthropometrics of the study participants were accounted for. Results showed that overall, those who consumed a Mediterranean diet were healthier as their mortality rate was decreased. A positive (although not statistically significantly) correlation was found between healthfulness and high fruit and vegetable consumption as well as high nut, legume, and oil consumption. An inverse relationship between healthfulness and meat consumption was found (though not statistically significant, either).

However……….there was a statistically significant positive health correlation seen with moderate ethanol consumption. Alcohol alone accounted for 24% of the overall health benefits seen with the Mediterranean diet. Alcohol consumption was most frequently noted to be wine consumed during meal times.

Moral of the study: wine does the body good!

Tomorrow, we’ll look into what it is about wine that provides all those health benefits…

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Filed under Mediterranean diet, research study, travel, wine