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By David Grotto, RDN

I wish I could eat my blog. I’m not sure if creating the recipes, taste testing them, taking the photos or writing about the ingredients and their health benefits is more enjoyable than the other. Yeah, right. Eating is the most enjoyable – who are we trying to kid here?

So Sharon (the wife) brought home some fingerlings to accompany some of her wonderful homemade chicken soup. I decided to pick out all of the purple ones and create a side dish that was rich in heart-healthy polyphenols. In fact, anthocyanins, the group of polyphenol plant chemicals that give these featured peruvian purple taters their color, are also responsible for giving red fruit, such as strawberries and cherries, their rich red color, too.

Research has shown that anthocyanins possess a wide range of biological functions including anti-inflammatory, germ fighting and even anti-cancer activity. Besides, they also help protect blood vessels and regulate blood components that lead to plaque formation and increase the risk of heart disease. But enough already with the healthy reason of why you should eat these taters – more importantly, they taste GREAT! So let’s get cooking!

If you can’t find the purple Peruvian variety, regular fingerlings will do. Both are pictured above. Let the fun begin!

Servings: 4

Prep and cooking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

1 pound fingerling potatoes, washed, sliced width-wise, 1/4 inch-thick
1/4 cup Marsala wine
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons Bleu cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9×12 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, place olive oil, pepper, salt, garlic, marsala wine and potatoes together and mix well. Remove and line the casserole dish with the potato slices. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top of the slices. Place in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned. Remove from oven and flip over potato slices. Sprinkle bleu cheese crumbles evenly over the slices and return to the over until well-browned and the cheese has melted – about 10-15 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Hit me up in the comment section and let me know what you think!

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By David Grotto, RDN

Looks yummy, eh?
Well I must tell you. My wife Sharon and I absolutely LOVE Brussels sprouts – not only for their wonderful taste but also because they are an outstanding member of the crucifers – a group of stinky veggies that contain cancer-fighting and immune-boosting plant chemicals called glucosinolates. But unfortunately, they’ve been a bit of a hard sell to the Grotto girls. Alas! We may be on to something because when we served them to the kids last evening, they ate every last one of them and said, “I’d eat this version of Brussels sprouts, any day!” So without further ado, here’s the recipe that won the kids over.

Servings: 4

Cooking and prep time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Pound Brussels Sprouts (pick smaller varieties – they tend to be sweeter and less bitter)
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp McCormick Smokehouse Maple (optional. leave out if you don’t want a smokey flavor)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tbsp real maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Wash Brussels sprouts, remove any damaged leaves and slice each sprout in half. Pat dry. Add sprouts to a medium mixing bowl with all of the other ingredients and mix well. Spray a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour sprout mixture into the baking dish and spread out over the entire bottom. Place in oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring 2-3 times during the baking period. Brussels sprouts should be well-browned and starting to char when done. Serve.

Let me know what you think and if you have any of your own tricks to get kids to eat these cute little cabbage-like veggies!

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by David Grotto, RDN

What do you do when a polar vortex blows through Chicago on Super Bowl Sunday? Make pancakes!

I really don’t need a lame weather excuse to make pancakes for my family – it’s one of our fave breakfast meals. But today I wanted to jazz them up a bit with the latest in the line from Hooray Puree – Sweet Potato! Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and are so good for you.

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This product is 100% organic sweet potato and nothing else added. Each box contains 2 packets and each packet is equivalent to two vegetable servings. I love the “no-brainer” approach that Hooray Puree offers to increase vegetables by simply tossing it in to your favorite dishes. Pancake mix turns out to work quite well with this product.

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I love Kodiak brand pancake mix. Actually, I screwed up and bought the buttermilk pancake mix version instead of the whole grain mix. Regardless, this turned out AWESOME. But I will try it using the whole grain mix the next time we make it. It was really simple to put together and my family loved it. Then I topped off the pancakes with a delicious berry mix – it doesn’t really need maple syrup but we like adding real maple syrup to just about anything – just like Buddy the elf! Ha!

Without further ado, here is the recipe. Let me know what you think.

Servings: 2 ( A serving = 2 large pancakes)

Ingredients:

Pancakes:
1 cup water
1 packet Hooray Puree Sweet Potato
1 cup Kodiak pancake mix
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice mix
2 tsp. Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar (can substitute regular sugar and add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1 smashed, ripe banana, medium

Tuscan Triple Berry
1/2 cup Blackberries
1/2 cup Raspberries
1/2 cup POM Pomegranate Arils
2 tbsp Red wine
2 tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar (can substitute regular sugar and add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)

Directions

Pancakes: Spray non-stick cooking spray onto a large skillet or griddle. Preheat over medium high heat. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth in a medium bowl. When griddle is hot, pour 1/4th on the mixture in. Cook until bubbles appear at the top. Lift pancake slightly to see if well-browned. Flip pancake over and cook until done. Add butter or Benecol light margarine, if desired

Tuscan Triple Berry: Rinse blackberries and raspberries then add to medium mixing bowl. Add POM arils to other berries. Add wine and sugar to berry mixture and fold until berries are well coated. Top pancakes with 1/2 of the mixture.

Enjoy!!

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By David Grotto, RDN, LDN

After 20 long years, the FDA is now proposing revisions to the Nutrition Facts label, commonly found on the pack of food and beverage containers.

Why? Many experts agree that the information contained within the label is outdated or not clearly understood by the consumer. This may explain why less than half of adults currently read the nutrition label, with any regularity. Though encouraging news from a recent USDA study, which found that label reading has increased by 34% over the past two years, improvements are still needed to get the rest of us on board.

What information from the nutrition fact panel isn’t resonating with consumers?
Calories. Experts and consumers agree. This info is probably the most important thing on the label and should be easily seen. Bolded and larger font size for “calories” is being proposed.
Calories from fat. Science supports that total calorie intake is far more important than where calories come from. Though it is important to know if a product contains healthy fats or bad trans fats, we no longer have to be “total fat-phobic”. News Flash! Olive oil derives 100% of its calories from fat. See how “Calories from fat” doesn’t help much?
Grams. As much as our elementary teachers have tried, we (as Americans) have not warmed to the metric system. Most consumers have no idea what 30 grams of something looks like. Instead, use teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, handfuls or a shot glass (okay – I understand how much that is – maybe the kids won’t).
Sugars. Is it total sugars in a product or added sugars that is a real or perceived concern? Many are pushing for either including a line that says “added sugars” or replace sugars with the term “added sugars”. Again, maybe an icon that shows teaspoons of sugar versus grams might be more useful?
Grams of whole grains. Again with the grams thingy! Us old-school RDs have always taught our patients to look to the first ingredient in determining what is most in a product. We also said to look for statements like 100% whole grain on the label. People understand percent’s.
Be Up Front. In this day of transparency, the consumer assumes that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes (aka “hiding something”) when nutrition information is relegated to the back of the package. I agree. Expect to be seeing more “Nutrition Keys”, which are highlights of the nutrition facts panel, appearing on the front of the label.
Serving size. Time to get real here too, people. Expect to see not only more realistic serving sizes but perhaps visuals/language that does a better job explaining what a serving size is. “A serving is a Fred Flintstone-sized bowl of cereal” (cue Fred). Well – maybe that’s my serving size – but you get the idea, right?
More importantly, what do you think needs to change? What say you? Take the short survey below!

Thank you to my intern Liana Akkawi for her assistance with this post!

Photo courtesy of US News & World Report

Photo courtesy of US News & World Report


Of course, any style of eating is actually considered a diet. But what I’m talking about here is a ‘diet’ in the traditional sense – a style of eating that includes an element of deprivation attached to it. Well, my friends…I’ve got good news for you! Not surprisingly, the best overall diets for health seem to focus on achieving a reasonable lifestyle that doesn’t require becoming a gym rat or only eating raw plants; gnawing mainly on roast beast that you had to wrestle into your grocery cart (in the most paleo-thetic way possible) or foregoing anything that tastes amazing AND hailed from a package or burger joint.

The U.S. News & World Report just announced the reigning champ of all diets. Drum roll please. After analyzing 32 popular diets, their panel of experts, including notables such as Robert Kushner, MD, David Katz, MD, Joanne Slavin, RD, PhD and Penny Kris-Etherton, RD, PhD, proclaimed the DASH Diet as No.1 in Best Overall Diets followed by the TLC diet and the Mediterranean diet in 3rd place.

The DASH, TLC (National Institutes of Health’s Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet endorsed by the American Heart Association) and Mediterranean diets are well-researched diets and all share the common benefit of reducing the risk of heart disease. This is good news as heart disease still plagues Americans as the No. 1 killer of both men and women. All three diets are similar as they all espouse monitoring calories, limiting (but not eliminating) sodium, sugar and animal protein and filling up the plate abundantly with vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Also not surprisingly, Weight Watchers, which has always focused on monitoring calories and including all types of food, holds on to the top spot for Best Weight-Loss Diets. Notably absent from top rankings of “Best” categories for overall health, weight-loss, diabetes, heart health and any other category was:

• Paleo diet (last place)
• Dukan diet (tied for last place)
• Wheat Belly
• Low carb
• Any celebrity-written diet
• Juicing, acid-alkaline or detox program

Another thing the “Best” diets seem to have in common is that they were very much in side step with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (MyPlate) albeit some slight tweaking. Though the “Best” overall diets didn’t make the top three ranking of “Best Weight-Loss Diets”, in my opinion, they certainly could easily be converted into a “Hannah Montana – best of both worlds” type diet by just adjusting the calorie level downward to suit your needs. The USDA has a Super Tracker that can help you figure out what that calorie level is and assign it to whatever type of diet you decide to follow. Might as well give heart disease a kick where it counts while dropping some poundage (if you need to) following the latest and bestest US News & World Report not-a-diet, diet! Good luck. Also, let me know if you’ve stumbled onto a dietary plan that you can stick to lifelong that was not mentioned here. Meanwhile, I wish you a healthy and delicious (non-diet) New Year!

Sorry about that! That was almost a “Shalloween” recommendation by its mere absence! Here’s the link for a most scary video. Be prepared!!!
https://blog.fitstudio.com/2013/10/daves-healthy-halloween-treats/

Video  —  Posted: October 30, 2013 in Ask The Guyatitian, Videos
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Are potatoes responsible for obesity or Miley twerking on the MTV music awards? Are spuds a nutritional dud? Check out what the experts have to say!