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Monday, July 25, 2011

Viva Argentina! Viva Summer Steaks!

Wine selection is excellente at Buenos Aires  Airport! 
I’ve got Argentina on the mind this week. My daughter Katie just began a four month stay in Buenos Aires for a university program focused on Spanish and international business. Hopefully she’ll return fluent in the language and learn lots about a culture famous for tango and fabulous steaks. At 20 she’s old enough to legally enjoy Argentina’s signature red wine, Malbec, too. (At least while she’s living there!)
Another reminder of Argentine cuisine arrived in a newsletter from dietitian colleagues who are members of the Food and Culinary Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association. Paula Tsufis wrote about the groups’ trip to sample South American food customs such as ‘asado’, Argentina’s traditional barbecue of meats and empanadas as she described, “Turnovers filled with a mixture of ground meat cooked with onions, olives and raisins.”
Typical Steak and Condiments at La Cabrera parilla in BA 

Argentines eat 160 pounds of beef per capita, and their tender, deeply flavored grass-fed beef (typically charred on an open fire called a parilla) is considered among the best in the world. During a visit to Buenos Aires a couple of years ago, I really liked that steaks were sliced to share and served with lots of different savory condiments such as pickled onions and chimichurri sauces made with olive oil, vinegar, finely chopped parsley, onion, garlic and herbs. When you add that kind of punch to the parilla plate you don’t need a Texas-sized steak hanging off the plate, as you see in a lot of U.S. steak houses.  In Argentina the expertly seasoned and grilled cuts of beef, lamb or pork may be center stage, but interesting salads, such as hearts of palm with tomato, onion and green olives  grace the tables, too. In Argentina the dining style is more European, with smaller portions, and the pace is slow and easy.   The feel and flavors of Argentina, as well as other Latin cuisines, are a specialty at Pura Vida Tapas & Bar in the Poncey-Highlands neighborhood. Puerto Rican born chef Hector Santiago’s menu celebrates the cuisines of South and Central America. 
Chef Hector Santiago's South American Themed Cooking Class

He grills hangar steak “parilla” style on a charcoal grill and serves with an Argentine inspired house made chimichurri sauce. 
Steak Places Can Be Healthy
Believe it or not, steak restaurants in the U.S. can be among the easiest places to find a healthy meal. You get to pick the size of your steak so portion control is built into the menu options. There are usually delicious salads to choose from and most side dishes are served a la carte so you can order steamed broccoli without the cheese sauce. Just don’t count that huge stack of onion rings as a vegetable serving.
While heavily marbled steaks have been prized in the past, there’s a move at modern steak houses to serve leaner cuts of beef such as tenderloin and sirloin and to prepare them with health conscious steak lovers in mind. Executive chef Ian Winslade of Murphy’s Restaurant has added a grilled strip steak to the menu served with a tangy sesame mustard sauce and sliced Portobello mushrooms. Owner Tom Murphy notes that since many customers eat at the Virginia Highlands restaurant multiple times a week - for lunch and dinner - there’s an emphasis on taste and health. Strip steaks are among the 29 cuts of beef considered “lean” which by the official USDA definition which is: less than 10g total fat and less than 95mg cholesterol per 3.5 oz. serving. Another nutrition note: lean beef provides needed nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, riboflavin and of course protein.  Even The Capital Grille in Buckhead, known for big steaks, big martinis and big red wines is lightening up for summer.  Lunch guests can mix-and-match three choices from nine small plate offerings including mini-beef tenderloin sandwiches.
Another meat-centric meal in Argentina with Malbec of course! 

Choose Steak Accessories Wisely
Saddle Up:
Sliced tomatoes-add a sprinkle of salt and grind or two from the pepper mill
Coleslaw- ask for your cabbage lightly tossed with the slaw dressing.
Baked potato-whether white or sweet, a half is usually the right size portion since steak places buy huge spuds.
Steamed Vegetables- a squeeze of fresh lemon is all you need.
Sautéed Spinach and mushrooms – ask the kitchen to go light on the butter or oil
Steak sauce- no fat, 15 calories per tablespoon.
Chimichurri sauce- olive oil based, 50 calories per tablespoon.
Steer Clear:
Mashed potatoes- some recipes are so high in fat they’re more like potato ice cream!
Potato au gratin – any food followed by “au gratin” means it’s loaded with cheese.
Creamed Spinach- rich tasting for a reason; heavy cream and butter often involved.
Onion rings-deep fat fried and the size of CD case. Share an order per table.
Béarnaise / Hollandaise- cream and butter based, 70 calories per tablespoon.   

Motivation to stay slim and trim: Argentine Polo Players in Mendoza

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ONeil On Eating

Let's eat. This beautiful breakfast began my day at Rancho La Puerta. You need energy to bounce through hikes, core workouts and pilates moves. Let the new blog begin.

Forget about dieting. Didn't work too well for anyone did it?

I think that's because Americans never really learned how to eat. Sure, we can grab snacks with great skill and forgo the bread because it's "fattening" and slurp down diet soft drinks to "be good" but that's not eating. That's not living. And guess what? That's not healthy for our bodies or our minds. Let's revisit some lovely lessons on eating from "Eat PrayLove."

It was the fresh buffalo mozzarella pizza with sweet tomato sauce and one sprig of basil that got me thinking of lessons learned about digging into delicious foods and letting go of weighty worries and calories consumed. In the first section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love she travels to Italy as part of what the subtitle describes as “one woman’s search for everything.” Her journey of self discovery, now depicted by actress Julia Roberts in a movie of the same name, includes a serious confrontation with American women’s attitudes about eating, dieting and the guilt often associated with enjoying indulgent foods. At a pizzeria in Naples, Gilbert describes a “Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise” and orders two whole pizzas for herself because “the pizza is so good we can barely cope.” She goes on to admit she’s gaining weight every day in Italy and says friends back home refer to her trip as the “No Carb Left Behind Tour.” But Gilbert’s new found joyful abandon with pleasures of the palate isn’t a runaway train headed for dietary doom. It’s an exhilarating side trip of gelato, pastries, pasta, wine and chocolate with a plan to get back on track later as she imagines her body is telling her, “OK, kid, live it up. I recognize that this is just temporary.”

In both the book and movie, the message throughout seemed to be about finding balance in life, love, work, thoughts and deeds. Balance is certainly something dietitians talk about all of the time in terms of a healthy balanced diet to support well being of body and mind. So, here’s a sampling of thoughts about the eating in Eat, Pray, Love from nutrition experts who offer guidance to clients on their personal health journeys of self discovery.
Yes, her name is Love.
Page Love, Registered dietitian, Nutrifit Sport Therapy of Atlanta, “I think it is wonderful how the main character reminds women how to really enjoy food and be OK with letting her waistband expand. She also reminds us how to tune into cravings and mindfulness -listening to body signals and responding to what your body is telling you it wants -sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes more because it just looks so good and tastes so good, but then there are other times when our body tells us that we have had enough. She reminds us of the sheer enjoyment of eating without worry of what others are thinking or what may happen to our body!”
Love took her own solo mid-life trip to Rome and says she didn’t gain weight because she was so active touring around and walking everywhere as tourists often do.
When in Rome

Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian, National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, “I was smitten after reading the first part on Italy and wanted to pack mybags immediately and go directly to that pizza shop! Traveling, for me, is so much about food. That’s the message I try to convey to patients: Savor the moment, make itworth it, make it special, make it count. Don’t eat bread in Italy just because you’re in Italy. Eat bread in Italy when an amazing piece of bread is served to you while you’re there and hopefully it’s coupled with an amazing Barolo!” Taub-Dix is the author of a new book on better understanding food labels, Read It Before You Eat It (Plume 2010)
Give up the Guilt
Ann Dunaway Teh, registered dietitian, Dunaway Dietetics, Atlanta,
“Unfortunately I still think there is a lot of competition almost among women when eating, such as always noticing what the other person is eating or choosing, making qualifying statements or disclaimers about why they made this choice or that choice.
I counsel on moderation and not restricting certain foods because this can set up a person for “binging” on that particular item later and feelings of guilt. I also temper my advice with physical activity and teach people how to enjoy all foods in moderation and have their eating reflect physical activity and vice versa.” Dunaway Teh specializes in nutrition counseling for athletes and families.
Enjoy! It’s Healthy
Marsha Hudnall, registered dietitian, Green Mountain at Fox Run, Vermont.
“Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and the current attitudes about eating in this country seriously interfere with that enjoyment. We can dig into our food, enjoy it thoroughly, and still walk away healthy. In fact, enjoyment and happiness even promote good digestion and utilization of the nutrients in food. I believe that one of the positive life messages in Eat, Pray, Love is to realize that food is a wonderful part of life and to enjoy it as part of a full life that includes other things” Hudnall is program director at Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow Vermont, a women's healthy weight loss retreat and pioneer in the non-diet, mindful eating approach to health and healthy weights. She leads Adventures in Mindful Eating Tours of Italy!

Mealtime Mindfulness
Each one of the nutrition experts mentioned the importance of mindfulness in eating. Page Love said it well, “When we tune in by eating slowly, pausing during meals, you will get appropriate and accurate measures of when to stop. Set up a “healthy meal environment” sitting in an aesthetically pleasing environment. Maximize your enjoyment mindfully which will in the end help you decide how much you need of yummy food without overdoing it!”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author Eat, Pray, Love communicates mindfulness too writing about her lunch of eggs, asparagus, olives, goat cheese, salmon and a peach, “Finally when I had fully absorbed the prettiness of my meal, I went and sat in a patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor and ate every bit of it with my fingers.”

Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD is a registered dietitian and co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! She can be seen on the Food Network’s Good Eats with Alton Brown, as recurring nutrition expert, The Lady of the Refrigerator.