What’s On Your Pizza?

Pizza…the great American food…and a very popular one. Are they healthy? They certainly can be. Pizza can also be very damaging to the waist line if you are not vigilant.

Over the last couple of years our family has been constructing their pizzas. I buy either the whole grain Boboli pizza crust or an Italian flat bread. The one thing that really sticks out in my mind is coming home from work one evening and finding my children standing around the kitchen island discussing ways to “make a better  pizza”. They were helping each other and offering advice. Each little individual pizza was custom made to suit each personality. Pizza making helps incorporate your children in meal preparation and allows them to be creative at the same time. My daughter now eats bell peppers and onions which she did not do prior to experimenting with various item choices. The end result was a great time for all and a healthy meal.

Read the label on your choice of crust if you are watching your carbohydrate servings.

Here is my pizza. What do you put on yours? Can you guess what I put on mine? How many items do you think came from my garden?


The next super food on the list is Kale. This green vegetable is one of the healthiest vegetables around. Move over spinach-kale overtakes you on nutrition and health benefits!

One cup of kale has only about 36 calories and provides about 20% of the RDA for fiber. As we have learned, fiber helps promote regular digestion, helps prevent constipation, helps lower blood sugar and keeps us feeling sated longer helping to prevent over eating. When steamed, the fiber in kale helps bind with the bile acids that are produced after eating fat making it easier for those bile acids to be eliminated thus lowering your cholesterol levels.

Kale provides a high amount of the antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids that help protect our cells from oxidative stress. The particular flavonoids present in kale help fight against some cancers including colon, breast, bladder, prostate, ovarian and stomach cancers. The glocosinolate isothiocyanate that is present in kale actually helps fight the formation of a bacteria called Heliocobacter  pylori which is a can be found in the stomach and is linked to stomach ulcers and some stomach cancers.

One cup of kale provides about 10% of the RDA for omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in vegetables and help reduce inflammation and other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders and asthma.

Vitamin K is found in high levels in Kale. Vitamin K is necessary for the formation of osteocalcin which is a protein that helps strengthen our bones. Vitamin K also helps prevent the build-up of calcium in our tissues that can lead to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Vitamin K is also a must for the formation of sphingolipid with is a fat that helps keep our nerves healthy. Vitamin A is plentifully found which helps boost immunity, helps keep our bonds and teeth healthy, and helps prevent urinary stones. Vitamin C is also found in high levels. Vitamin C I not only an antioxidant but helps lower blood pressure, helps maintain a healthy immune system, fight against some of the eye diseases associated with aging.

So what exactly does one do with this leafy green vegetable? Kale can be bitter to the taste. Purchase Kale with smaller leaves for a milder flavor. The health benefits of Kale increase with steaming for about 5 minutes.

Ways to enjoy Kale:

  • I like to add some chopped Kale to my omelet in the morning along with a little shredded parmesan cheese
  • Try braising some Kale with apples then sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar and add some chopped walnuts
  • I like to sauté a little fresh minced garlic, add some chopped Kale, then toss with a little olive oil before serving
  • Add some chopped Kale, pine nuts and feta cheese to some whole grain pasta and drizzle a little olive oil

Kale chips are very easy to make and so much healthier than potato chips. The flavor options are endless!

Basic Kale Chips

1 bunch Kale, middle spines removed, torn into smaller pieces
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly dry the Kale leaves. This is very important. Place olive oil and salt into sealable plastic bag. Shake to coat, remove air from bag, reseal and rub olive oil and seasonings into leaves. Place leaves in a single layer on a cooking sheet covered with parchment paper or lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until crisp and lightly brown.

Flavor Options

  • Add about 1 teaspoon chili flakes to bag and mix. Sprinkle some Cheyenne pepper and or paprika on top of cooked leaves after removing from oven.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 ½ teaspoons of sesame seeds to the bag.
  • Try ¼ cup sherry vinegar and salt.
  • Combine 2 teaspoons of French onion dip or soup mix to bag.
  • Try 3 cloves garlic minced and garlic salt.
  • Sprinkle kale with 2 tablespoons Parmesan or Asiago cheese before placing in the oven.
  • What about 3 table spoons Balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, juice of 1 lemon and some pepper.
  • Add the juice of 1 lime, 1 teaspoon lime zest or grated lime peel and 2 teaspoons chili powder.

I got this recipe from my sister, who is the pickiest eater on earth. She loves this salad and it only takes minutes to make!

Kale Salad

Baby Kale
6 ounces Brussel Sprouts cut into quarters
½ head red cabbage
¾ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash olive oil
Shaved Parmesan cheese

Combine the lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and Parmesan in a bowl. Combine the prepared vegetables. Pour dressing over the vegetables and mix.

Super Food You Say?

What exactly is a super food? A super food is a food that is high in nutrients and contains high amounts of phytochemicals.  A phytochemical is a chemical compound found in plants. They naturally help protect the plant from certain diseases but also have been recently noted to protect and prevent our body from certain diseases. They are touted to have some anti-aging, anti-heart disease and anti-cancer properties. These substances help protect our cells from damage.

Journey with me as we explore some of these super foods and how to add them to your daily diet!

Let’s start with my favorite food…dark chocolate! Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants which help free your body of substances that can damage cells and increase aging. Flavonoids are also in abundance and help improve vascular health including decreasing the risk of stroke or heart attack and lowering cholesterol. In some populations dark chocolate may even help lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate also has a lower glycemic index than milk chocolate and as a result, does not cause the rapid spikes in blood sugar that milk chocolate can. All this great news about dark chocolate, unfortunately, does not mean that we can eat this as our main dish every day. We only need a little two to three times a week.

How can you enjoy your chocolate?

  • Grate some over your morning oatmeal
  • Try some shaved dark chocolate on your favorite fruit such as strawberries, peaches, or pears
  • You could nibble straight from the bar as dark chocolate also has some caffeine and may help wake you up during that mid day slump
  • Do you like mocha? Try grating some in your morning coffee
  • Make your own trail mix with your favorite, dried fruits, nuts or seeds and add some dark chocolate chips
  • Try melting some dark chocolate and dipping graham crackers in it then let cool on some waxed paper

Nuts for You

Walnuts have been around since about 7,000 B.C. Walnuts contain much higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for brain and nerve function. They help build new cells and keep them strong, as well as help with normal growth and development. Our body does not make this particular fatty acid so we must get it through our foods. Walnuts also have tons of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants.

Incorporating walnuts in your diet may help lower your LDL “bad cholesterol” and help increase your HDL or “good cholesterol”. Walnuts may also improve the elasticity of blood vessels because of their anti-inflammatory action thus may help lower blood pressure, decrease coronary artery disease, decrease strokes and lower your risk of some cancers such as breast, colon and prostate.

In general nuts tend to be high in fat so should be consumed in moderation in order to not add excessive calories to your daily intake. Walnuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are healthier fats and very little saturated fats which are not so healthy. Walnuts have no cholesterol.

Nutritional Information for Walnuts
Serving Size: 14 halves
Calories: 185
Fat: 18.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 3.9 grams
Protein: 4.3 grams
Fiber: 1.9 grams
Low glycemic index

They should be eaten as a protein replacement food such as:

  • Sprinkle some chopped walnuts into your oatmeal in place of bacon or sausage
  • Add to a muffin or pancake batter
  • Enjoy as a snack
  • Add some chopped walnuts to your yogurt
  • Use them in a trail mix made with your favorite dried fruits
  • Use them as a protein replacement in a salad

These salads are favorites of my sister and myself. If you are counting carbohydrates, read your label. A serving of dried cranberries is about 1/3 cup and have 33 grams of carbohydrates. Each section of grapefruit has about 1 gram of carbohydrate and 1 ounce of Mandarin oranges is 3.5 grams carbohydrates.

Spinach Walnut Salad

1 bag of fresh spinach
Shredded purple cabbage
Quartered mini carrots
Grape tomatoes halved
Mandarin oranges, chopped
Grapefruit slices chopped
Lite Lime Dressing

Broccoli Slaw

1 package Broccoli Slaw
Dried cranberries
Chopped celery
Walnut halves
Lite Ranch Dressing

Sweet Potatoes: The Other Potato

Sweet potatoes are another super food that is becoming more common to eat other than at Thanksgiving and holidays. They are a healthier choice than white potatoes and just as versatile.

Why then should one choose a sweet potato over a white potato? Sitting at 7 grams of fiber per serving, sweet potatoes contain two times more fiber than white potatoes. This high fiber allows them to be digested slower keeping blood sugar from spiking and its energy they provide used more efficiently.

Sweet potatoes have a large amount of vitamin B6 which can help prevent hardening of the arteries. Vitamin B6 also helps to keep the walls of the blood vessels flexible. They are high in potassium which helps lower blood pressure by regulating the fluid balance of the body. Potassium also helps to keep the normal rhythm of the heart regular and supports the normal function of the brain and nervous system.

Vitamin A is also found in abundance in sweet potatoes. Vitamin A, or beta-carotene, is an antioxidant which helps reduce cell damage and death. Vitamin A is good for the eyes and may help prevent vision loss.

Most of us know that vitamin C helps boost our immune system warding off colds and other viruses. Vitamin C also helps with the formation of bones and teeth as well as help to aid in digestion and the formation of blood cells. Vitamin C also helps with the healing of wounds and helps to keep our skin maintain its elasticity.

Sweet potatoes contain vitamin D. Vitamin D is made in our bodies as a result of being in the sunlight. This vitamin is important in helping with moods, helps build healthy and strong bones and teeth. Our heart, nerves and skin also benefit from vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a common occurrence partly due to sunblock products and sedentary lifestyles.

Manganese is another mineral that is found in sweet potatoes. This trace mineral helps metabolize carbohydrates which helps stabilize blood sugars. When blood sugars are stable, appetite is also stable so satisfaction from hunger lasts longer.

Magnesium is also present in sweet potatoes. This mineral is valuable in helping to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Our arteries, blood, bones, heart, muscles and nerve function also benefit from magnesium.

Almost anything goes with this super food. Sweet potatoes can be prepared in almost the same way in which you would prepare a white potato.

  • Mash some sweet potatoes and mix in a little olive oil
  • Bake them then add a little cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom
  • Sweet potato fries are in. Cut potatoes in wedges. Lightly coat in olive oil and add your favorite herbs. Rosemary or cumin or paprika. Bake at 425 degrees until tender.

This is one of my favorite recipes for sweet potatoes. The sugar-free syrup makes this dish diabetic friendly.

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces
1/3 cup sugar-free maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cubed potatoes in a 9×13 inch glass baking dish. In small bowl combine the maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper if used. Pour over sweet potatoes. Cover and bake for about 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until tender approximately 45-50 minutes. Serves 12.

Serving size ½ cup

Nutritional Information
Calories 96
Fat 2 grams
Carbohydrates about 15 grams
2 grams fiber
1 gram protein

Adapted from www.eatingwell.com.

Coffee – Not the Bad Guy Anymore

Coffee – my favorite way to start the day! There is nothing like that first cup of coffee in the morning, when no one else is up and about and the house is quiet. But who would have thought that the coffee you enjoy every morning is actually good for your health? I get patients all the time telling me that they quit drinking coffee believing it is bad for our health.

Research is beginning to show that coffee drinkers may be less likely to have Type 2 Diabetes. Magnesium and chromium are also present which actually help the body use the hormone insulin more efficiently and help regulate blood sugar more effectively. Coffee may help decrease heart rhythm disturbances and lower the risk of stroke in women.

We all know that coffee helps us stay awake. But did you know that coffee can help improve mood and brain function? Caffeine is a stimulant and increases firing of your neurons and release of other neurotransmitters that can actually improve mood, reaction time, memory and general functioning of the brain. As a result, coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Due to the stimulant effect of caffeine, your metabolism increases and may enhance physical performance.

Other nutrients and vitamins found in that little coffee bean include vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, potassium, manganese and a large amount of antioxidants. Those antioxidants help prevent cell damage.

Can I drink coffee in pregnancy? Absolutely! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) even states that moderate consumption of caffeine, about 12 ounces of coffee, does not appear to have any effects on fetal growth, premature delivery or miscarriages. So by all means enjoy that cup of coffee!

Coffee by itself is very low in calorie containing only 7 calories per cup. However, when we doctor that coffee up by adding half & half, non-dairy creamers or sugar we can be adding an additional 23 to 48 calories per cup! As with anything, moderation is always the key.

What if you do not like drinking coffee? Here are a couple of recipes to enjoy the benefits of coffee without having to drink it.

Coffee-Peppercorn Marinade

3 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound your choice of beef such as flank steak, London Broil, or Sirloin steak.

Whisk together all ingredients. Place in sealable plastic bag or glass dish. Marinate meat for 1 to 8 hours. Remove beef and grill to desired doneness. My family absolutely loved this!

Nutritional Information:
Calories 230
Fat 3 grams
Cholesterol 45 mg
Carbohydrates 23 grams

Coffee Rub

½ cup finely ground coffee
¼ cup coarsely ground pepper
3 tablespoons kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together. Using 2 tablespoons of rub, rub evenly into 6 portions of your favorite protein such as chicken, beef, duck or lamb.

Serving size: 1 teaspoon

Nutritional information:
5 calories
1 carbohydrate

I experimented and used this rub on some wild caught salmon then placed under the broiler.

Adapted from www.eatingwell.com

Avocados: The Other Fruit

Here is another one of my favorite foods and it can be easily added to your meal without a lot of preparation! Avocados have a lot of essential nutrients such as vitamin A, B, C, E and K, copper, iron phosphorous, copper, as well as fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

Health benefits are many including helping to maintain a healthy heart. Avocados contain B6 and folic acid which help regulate homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.  Avocados can help lower cholesterol levels, decrease triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). Lower cholesterol levels and may help protect against strokes. One avocado contains about 23% of the daily recommended value of folic acid which is known to decrease certain birth defects such as neural tube defects and spina bifida.

Avocados have polyphenols and flavonoids which are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that decrease inflammation and some degenerative disorders. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and as a result my help slow the aging process and boost your immune system. They may also help prevent breast cancer and inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.

Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats and fiber, both of which can help with insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Avocados are also high in fat with ½ of an avocado containing 10 gm of fat 7 of which are monounsaturated and 1.5 grams saturated fat. They are high in calorie as well so should be used sparingly.

Ways to enjoy avocados:

  • Fresh slices on a salad
  • Guacamole
  • Try mashing some avocado and using in place of mayonnaise
  • Add some slices to your favorite sandwich or tacos
  • Stuff an avocado half with your favorite tuna or chicken salad

Homemade Guacamole

3 avocados, mashed
1 tomato, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons minced onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
1 Jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Lime juice to taste

Nutritional Information
Serves 4
Calories 262
Fat 22.2 grams
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrates 18 gm
Fiber 11.4 gm
Protein 3.7 gm

Blueberries Pack Big Punch

It is amazing what great things this little berry packs for its small size. Now is the time to take full advantage of these little gems. Crops are coming in and prices are good.

Why are they so amazing? First of all, blueberries contain the highest antioxidant capacity of all the fresh fruits. Blueberries are very rich in anthocyanin which is linked to many health benefits by reducing free radicals. Reducing free radicals in the body helps delay aging and can lower the risk of developing certain cancers especially colon cancer.

The high fiber content of blueberries coupled with the antioxidant effect can help dissolve the “bad cholesterol” and actually help strengthen the heart muscle. The fiber content in blueberries can help reduce episodes of constipation.

Blueberries pack vitamin C, B complex, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper,  selenium, zinc and iron which helps to build the immune system and help prevent bladder infections.  Coupled with the anthocyanin blueberries may help prevent your brain cells from dying thus improving memory.  These anthocyanosides are also linked to slowing down visual loss. These compounds can help prevent or delay many of the age-related visual problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and myopia to name a few.

How can you enjoy these little fruits?

  • Make a fresh fruit salad using fruits of your choice, sprinkle a little sugar substitute and mix or add a dollop of whipped topping
  • Add fresh blueberries to your yogurt
  • Try adding them to your pancakes, waffles, muffins, oatmeal or cereal
  • Make a parfait layering yogurt, blueberries and low-fat granola
  • Toss some in your green salad
  • My daughter eats them straight from the container and I have trouble keeping them stocked
  • During peak season when blueberries are on sale I will portion them out in 1 cup amounts and freeze them for use later

Try this enjoying blueberries as a nice frozen snack on a hot afternoon or after dinner dessert.  I put a batch in the freezer then worked in the gardens for a couple of hours. The combination of the frozen blueberries with the lemon yogurt was very refreshing after being in the Texas heat.

Using a toothpick, dip fresh blueberries in lemon yogurt. Place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Freeze for a couple of hours. If you do not have lemon yogurt on hand use your favorite flavor.

Remember that ½ cup of these small super foods is one serving of carbohydrates.

Snacking Made Easy

Snacks. I find it hard sometimes to come up with an easy, healthy, quick snack that is portable and can be munched on at my desk between patients. And at 6:30 in the morning, who is thinking about what will be happening at 10:00am anyway, right? Here as a great snack idea that can be made ahead and give you several servings to last you through the week. No extra brain energy exerted before the coffee kicks in!

The salsa can also be used to top your favorite beef, chicken or fish.

Corn Salsa

1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 large tomato, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss. Serve with fresh vegetables or homemade whole grain pita chips.

Serves about 16
Serving size: ¼ cup

Nutritional information:
Calories 32
Total fat 0 grams
Carbohydrates 7 grams
Fiber 2 grams

Remember to add the carbohydrates from the pita chips! If you use the celery sticks then you can enjoy ½ cup and count this as one of your servings of carbohydrates or starches.


I did some research on some of the popular Easter candies that line the store shelves at this time of year. They are all so tempting! All are wrapped in pretty packages to attract your attention. What is that pretty foil wrapper really hiding?

[table type=”striped_minimal”]
[thcol]Fat (g)[/thcol]
[thcol]Carbs (g)[/thcol]
[thcol]Sugar (g)[/thcol]
[tcol]1 Cadbury Solid Milk Chocolate Easter Bunny[/tcol]
[tcol]1 Reese’s Reester Bunny[/tcol]
[tcol]1 Dove Solid Chocolate Easter Bunny[/tcol]
[tcol]4 Lindt Mini Bunnies[/tcol]
[tcol]9 Brachs Malted Easter Eggs[/tcol]
[tcol]1 Nestle’s Crunch Nest Egg[/tcol]
[tcol]1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg [/tcol]
[tcol]1 Cadbury Chocolate Crème Egg[/tcol]
[tcol]35 Jelly Belly Assorted Jellybeans[/tcol]
[tcol]4 Peep Marshmallow Bunnies [/tcol]