Think outside the box this 4th of July and instead of having the same ole’ coleslaw or potato salad, experiment with your favorite vegetables.  Grilling brings out the natural sugars of vegetables which causes them to caramelize and add a sweet and smoky flavor.

Which vegetables are great for the grill?
The possibilities are endless.  I’m listing a few of my favorites to help you get started.

Summer Squash- cut lengthwise
Mushrooms-leave whole
Eggplant-cut into rounds
Endives-halve lengthwise through core
Fennel-cut thin slices
Onions- cut into slices
Peppers (red, green, yellow or orange)- halve lengthwise remove insides and cut into thirds
Scallions- leave whole

What about fruit?
Grilling fruit makes a great dessert.  Serve with a dollop of low-fat ice cream or honey sweetened Greek yogurt and you will never look at fruit the same way again. Here are some fruits that are great on the grill:
Pineapple- cut into rings
Banana- you can grill with skin or peel and cut lengthwise into planks
Peaches-cut in half and remove pit
Nectarines-cut in half and remove pit

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Do you feel bombarded with nutrition information and confused on what to eat?  You’re not alone. The USDA conducted some consumer research and discovered that people want a more simplified message but more information.

Although the USDA came up with MyPlate earlier this year,  nutrition experts at Harvard developed their own Healthy Eating Plate, to help guide you on what to eat.  Although their tool builds upon USDA’s MyPlate strategy, Harvard’s experts argue that the USDA’s food guidelines are more influenced by the food industry than science.  To remedy this shortcoming, Harvard’s nutrition expert created their own plate which is more specific and science-based.

Image of the Healthy Eating Plate

And this is what they say:

1. Half your plate should be vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables help lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, they help you feel full and prevent constipation. Choose a variety of veggies and fruits with different colors. Different vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals. Instead of potatoes choose sweet potatoes.

2. A quarter of your plate should be whole grains. Whole grains help lower cholesterol and insulin levels, decrease your risk of diabetes and prevent constipation. Whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat and corn tortillas and oats.

3. A quarter of your plate should be a healthy lean protein, less red meat. Choose beans, tofu, nuts, fish and skinless poultry. Red and processed meats have been found to increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer.

4. The “Healthy Eating Plate” also recommends you use healthy oils such as olive, canola, sunflower or flaxseed oil and avoid butter and trans fats.

5. Drink mostly water and non-sugary beverages such as coffee and tea with little or no sugar. Limit 100% juice to one six ounce glass a day, whole fresh fruit is a better choice since it also adds fiber and phytochemicals (plant nutrients). It also recommends a  limit of milk/dairy to 1-2 servings a day since some studies have shown no benefit to getting an excess amount of calcium.

6. Stay active. Exercise is just as important as a healthy diet for weight control and better health. Try to get at least the minimum recommendations of 30 minutes a day for five days a week, moderate intensity aerobic activity. And two or more days of strength training activity using all major muscle groups.


Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. Healthy Eating Plate. Accessed on September 29, 2011.

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Plate with four sections-protein, grains, vegetables & fruitThe USDA has come up with a clever tool to help you improve your food choices and reduce your portion sizes.   The tool is, something you use every day,  your plate.   What makes this method so brilliant is that all you need is right in front of you.  The less complicated it is the easier to it is to maintain long-term.  Here is how it’s done:

1.    Fill half your plate with vegetables and/or fruits. Choose a variety of colors:

  • Orange: sweet potatoes, mangos, butternut squash
  • Purple: eggplant, beets, blueberries
  • White: cauliflower, cabbage, jicama
  • Green: kale, spinach, broccoli, avocado

2.    One quarter of your plate should be grains, preferably whole grains.

  • Whole grains add fiber and other important nutrients such as iron and B vitamins
  • 100 % whole grain cereal, bread, pasta, oats
  • Brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, barley, oats, millet, teff, triticale, wild rice

3.    The last quarter of your plate should be a lean protein. Try to vary your choices to get the most nutrients and the least calories.

  • Seafood, poultry (without the skin), eggs
  • Beans and legumes, tofu
  • Lean cuts of red meat


Additional Tips:

  • Drink mostly water, or beverages with few calories and minimal/no sugar.
  • Read food labels and choose foods with less salt. Try to get less than 2300mg of salt per day.  A good rule of thumb: Choose foods with less than 300 mg sodium per serving, or no more than 1 mg per calorie of food.
  • Choose healthy plant-based fats/oils. Recent studies found that the type of fat you eat is more important in disease prevention than the total amount of fat.
    Choose extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil and flaxseed oil.
  • Avoid saturated fats and trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid butter, full-fat dairy products, red meats, snack foods, processed foods.

Download the pdf below for more tips to a great plate from the USDA:






United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Choose Accessed on July 10, 2011.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Chapter 8 Sodium and Potassium. Accessed on June 1, 2011.

Harvard School of Public Health.The Nutrition Source. Fats and Cholesterol. Accessed on July 10, 2011.


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