Spring greens, apricots and quinoa salad with easy, peachy dressing! Vegan, gluten-free.

Summer salad with super foods-quinoa and beans! Eat a rainbow of fresh flavors, colors, and nutrients, with this refreshing salad, replete with crunchy, mildly caramelized onions, sweet, sliced apricots, and garden fresh, spring greens. Cash in on the warm weather and enjoy eating this salad al fresco! The tartness of the cherry tomatoes is complemented with the mildly sweet, but tangy, home-made peach dressing that looks and tastes like you slaved over it, but can be made in a snap! It’s rich, creamy flavor belies its caloric content and will have your fussiest family members flocking back for more.

© Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Summer salad with peachy dressing © Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE 

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Easy-peachy dressing, © Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Posted in Get cooking, Salads and starters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Gut friendly, Very-Berry Yogurt Parfait

The stunning truth about your gut!! Did you know that the little critters in your gut may be calling the shots when it comes to your health?? From gaining or losing weight, allergies, inflammatory bowel disorders, diabetes, and would you believe it-food cravings, these little microbes may be influencing all these conditions, based upon emerging scientific evidence. No wonder the gut microbiome is rapidly emerging as one of the most exciting and promising frontiers in medicine today!

Gut friendly foods: This means that the foods that help your gut bacteria thrive, are also emerging as key contributors of good health. Long touted as  super foods, with the emergence of the gut microbiome, fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir have been basking in the spot light as we discover how probiotics ( friendly bacteria), can influence host immune response. If you are serious about improving your health, you need to start from the inside out, so please scroll down to read more on the all-important probiotics in my Registered Dietitian’s tip below. In the mean time, dig into this refreshing yogurt jello, just in time for summer!

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© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

In this recipe, luscious berries are served atop a cantaloupe flavored yogurt jello to create a dessert that looks like you slaved over it, but in reality can be assembled in a snap!

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Posted in Desserts, Digestive health, Get cooking, Probiotics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Spinach-pesto pasta salad with fresh, sweet corn and cherry tomatoes

A pesto sauce that pops with flavor and nutrients! Nothing spells spring and summer like tender, fresh, sweet corn, served straight off of the cob. Shallots, garlic and walnuts sautéed in olive oil, and then blended into the pesto sauce, add an unexpected, and delicious variation to the traditional version, making it burst with flavor. The fresh corn adds a delightful crunch that will have your guests drooling for more. What’s more, this recipe also packs a hefty nutrient punch with the antioxidant power of spinach, omega -3 fatty acids from walnuts, Vitamin C from tomatoes and a hefty dose of fiber from the whole wheat pasta. Great way to sneak in the spinach for fussy kids (and a few grown ups)! So go ahead, dig in and enjoy!

© Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, May 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Posted in Get cooking, Side dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Light and savory dumplings: Momos, vegan.

As crocuses start peeking from behind fronds of grass, lawns turn a lush green again, and the unmistakable sights and sounds of spring fill the cool, crisp, New England air, my heart fills with joy as I look forward to taking long walks with my husband and serving meals al fresco on the patio again. There is something so invigorating and refreshing about the air quality in the middle of spring in New England, that I find myself lingering outside, soaking in all that nature has to offer, and conjuring dishes that tap into mother nature’s boundless bounty!

Momos is one such nature inspired dish, that combines the delicious crunch of garden fresh vegetables, lightly sautéed to maintain their freshness, with the bite of ginger, garlic and green chilies or the spicy tang of hot sauce. These vegetables are then bundled in the delectable, light and translucent dumplings to make a melt-in the mouth appetizer that is sure to have your guests and family clamoring for more. Momos are a type of dumpling that are native to Nepal, and resemble the Japanese gyozo.

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© Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE, April, 2016

 

Yield: 8 dumplings

Ingredients: 

Carrots, peppers, cabbage and green beans are finely grated or chopped for the filling. ©Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Carrots, peppers, cabbage and green beans are finely grated or chopped for the filling. ©Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

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The low-down on lycopene: Find loads of it in this spicy-tangy, tomato chutney!

A liking for lycopene: From marinara sauces, gazpacho soups and Asian curries to salsas and salads, tomatoes are the darlings of chefs everywhere, an integral part of most cuisines and a staple item in pantries the world over. However, a tomato is so much more than a luscious fruit. Touted for containing a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which can zap free radicals from damaging the DNA in your cells and other compounds in your body, turns out lycopene in tomatoes may also reduce your risk of stroke!

© Copyright, March 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, March 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.  Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in tomatoes, has also been associated with reduced risk of stroke.

So what exactly is lycopene? Like beta carotene found in carrots, lycopene belongs to a family of compounds called  carotenoids, which are organic pigments found in the chloroplasts of plants, imparting fruits and vegetables with those brilliant hues such as oranges, reds and yellows that are we are all familiar with.

© Copyright, March 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Cooked tomatoes have a higher lycopene content than raw! © Copyright, March 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Posted in Antioxidants, Get cooking, Salads and starters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Quinoa-Chickpea stew with carrots, tomatoes, and a hint of basil

What’s old, becomes new again: Ever since an ancient psuedograin called quinoa got catapulted into the limelight by the media touting its considerable benefits, consuming quinoa has become today’s trend, with this amazingly, healthy seed (yes, even though it may be used as a whole grain, quinoa is actually a seed), popping up in grocery stores everywhere, and fitness magazines featuring at least one quinoa recipe within their glossy covers. But is quinoa’s reputation as a nutrient powerhouse well deserved? Scroll all the way down to my “Registered Dietitian’s tip”, to find out…

© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Quinoa, corn and chickpeas are simmered with pureed carrots and tomatoes to make a nutritionally balanced, hearty stew. © Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Multi-nutrient medley: The featured recipe combines 3 nutrition super stars such as quinoa, carrots and chickpeas, with the tangy flavor of blanched tomatoes, the earthiness of ginger, and the crunch of sweet corn to make a wholesome, hearty stew that is a meal in itself.  Fresh basil adds the perfect, finishing touch to this heart warming dish.

© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

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Chocolate in a nut shell: Some delicious facts you should know!

The sweet facts! With Valentine’s Day today, I hope you have had a chance to dive into the delicious, silken smoothness, of  the molten chocolate lava cake featured earlier this week. Very few folks can pass up the allure of real chocolate, but is it just another decadent treat, or does it contain substances that might actually be good for you? On this Valentine’s day, (if we can tear ourselves from the very chocolate being discussed), let’s pause to shine the spotlight on the naturally occurring phytochemicals* found in cocoa, and in particular dark chocolate, and discover how they can impact our health.

Dark chocolate has been associated with heart healthy benefits. © Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Cocoa and dark chocolate have been associated with heart healthy benefits. © Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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For the love of chocolate: Waist-watcher’s molten chocolate cake. Valentine’s special.

For the love of chocolate! With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I have had visions of chocolate laden desserts dancing in my head for several days now. Yes, I may be a dietitian, but that does not make me immune to the allure of chocolate, especially the molten variety such as a chocolate sauce or ganache. There is something about the rich, silken, texture of chocolate that makes it irresistible, but such desserts are inevitably as rich in calories as they are in appearance, so the Registered Dietitian in me has been hard at work creating a dessert that simply looks decadent, but is not! The featured recipe has less than half the butter, and two-thirds of the sugar in the original recipe, but tastes just as sinfully delicious. Warning: The batter may get consumed before it makes its way into the oven!

 © Copyright, February 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.


Molten chocolate cake with raspberries. © Copyright, February 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

The refreshing taste of raspberries provides the perfect foil for the rich, velvety taste of the chocolate cake and molten sauce! Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to get the scoop on why raspberries are as good for you as they look!

 © Copyright, February 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.


© Copyright, February 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

 © Copyright, February 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.


© Copyright, February 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Posted in Antioxidants, Desserts, Get cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Asian-inspired, carrot-spinach soup, and a vitamin A primer. Gluten free, vegan.

Making nutritious, delicious! Don’t be surprised if you get curious neighbors knocking on your door, enticed by the mesmerizing aroma of the fragrant lemon grass, and the unmistakable scent of Thai curry paste as it permeates your kitchen and wafts down the street or hallway, beckoning your neighbors. This soup taps into the wholesome goodness of fresh ginger, spinach, carrots and beans to form a mouth-watering concoction with a hint of Thai curry paste and lemon grass to give it an Asian flavor. Brimming with antioxidants, vitamin A and C from spinach, beta carotene from carrots, anti-inflammatory components from onions and ginger, this soup combines good taste and sound nutrition, all in one steaming hot bowl!

© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Spinach, carrots and beans pack a hefty nutrient punch in this heart-warming soup! © Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Asian inspired carrot-spinach soup. © Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Make sure to scroll down all the way to get a quick snapshot on beta carotene, found in abundance in this recipe, and the important role it plays in supporting health.

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© Copyright, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

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Easy, cheesy, English muffins with scallions, red peppers and mushrooms.

Scrumptiously simple, and simply scrumptious: These versatile little beauties are perfect for brunch, as appetizers before a party, or as a wholesome, after-school snack for hungry kids! Crunchy scallions and red peppers are blended with mushrooms, a hint of cheese and placed atop an English muffin, which is subsequently toasted until the cheese melts. The refreshing crunch 0f fresh veggies, and the allure of melted cheese make these a palate pleaser at any time of the year! You are going to love the fact that these nifty muffins can be whipped up in a snap: you can get them on the table in just about 20-25 minutes. At just 83 calories, and 5 hefty grams of fiber per serving, what a delicious way to get to the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber per day!!

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© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

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© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

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Mexican chicken- black bean- tortilla soup and an Iron Primer.

Complete meal in a bowl: This soup combines tangy with spicy, and the richness of cheese with the crunch of tortilla chips to make a hearty broth that is practically a complete meal in a bowl! The soup supplies protein from chicken and cheese, carbs and fiber from the beans, healthy, mono-unsaturated fats from the olive oil, vegetables from onions and peppers, not to mention powerful antioxidants from garlic and tomatoes. This recipe highlights the importance of whole and fresh ingredients in creating dishes that please the palate, add eye-appeal and are nutritious to boot! Be sure to scroll to the bottom to find out all about the all important trace mineral iron, and ways to increase it’s absorption from the foods you eat.

© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Mexican chicken-bean tortilla soup. © Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

This post is at least partly inspired by my daughter, an avid cook herself with her own blog, Tang and Spice. She has made this soup for us before, and had us slurping out of the bowl in no time!

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Six strategies for successful weight management, and the surprising science behind some of them!

The partying and revelry are over, and Holiday season 2015 with it’s whirlwind of last-minute frantic shopping, and even more frantic holiday associated eating, is now history! Now comes the reality check, and the dreaded scale that you had been pointedly ignoring awaits. If you are kicking yourself for tossing last year’s weight loss resolution (once again), right through the window some time in February 2015, after getting off to a great start in January, and are pledging that this New Year you will not fall into the same trap again, do check out these smart strategies.

© Copyright, January, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, January, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Brown rice with fennel and beans. Gluten-free, vegan.

Turn brown rice from boring to brilliant, with this easy, nutrient packed recipe!

© Copyright, December, 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, December, 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

As a Registered Dietitian, I can almost predict the reaction I get from my patients when I suggest incorporating brown rice into their meals to get the whole grain benefits. I either get a skeptical, “you gotta be kidding me ” look, or a strong protest, “but it’s so tasteless!” The fact of the matter is that, with a few simple ingredients, you can transform plain and mundane brown rice to creamy and delicious! What’s more-the recipe packs an array of nutrients such as beta carotene or Vitamin A from carrots, antioxidants from garlic and fennel, protein and fiber from the beans, as well as B vitamins and fiber from the brown rice. By combining whole grains from the brown rice with protein from the beans and healthy fats from olive oil, along with veggies to boot, the recipe incorporates the key elements of a complete meal, all in one bowl!

Beans are an inexpensive source of nutrients. © Copyright, December, 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Beans are an inexpensive source of nutrients, and pack a hefty amount of fiber per 1/2 cup serving. © Copyright, December, 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Posted in Get cooking, Main dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Listen to your gut: Powering up on Probiotics!

Jumping on the probiotic bandwagon: As we saw last month in the post, ” What’s your gut instinct?? A must read on how your gut bacteria, can impact your health! Part I, with the gut quickly emerging as one of the most exciting frontiers in medicine today, probiotics and fermented drinks have become the latest buzzword in the media, with food companies scrambling to jump on this bandwagon, and finding novel ways to harness the power of probiotics in a pill, or powder. Some are incorporating these probiotics into the ubiquitous, functional foods like granola bars, cheeses, and even some beverages that compete for space at your local grocery!

Yogurt is one of the most well-known, probiotic food source in the US today. © Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, Dec 2015.

Yogurt is one of the most well-known, probiotic food sources in the US today. © Copyright, December 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

 

While the little critters called gut bacteria have co-existed with human beings since time immemorial, it is only in the last decade that the microbial community that we all harbor, has come under intense scientific scrutiny.

Are probiotic product claims valid?:  Although there are some blinded, placebo controlled trials that support the  role of probiotics in maintaining health or preventing disease, the science of probiotics continues to brew and ferment. Hence, further, well designed studies are required to establish the proposed benefits. In some cases, general health claims are made that are not valid for the specific strains and levels being used, and as a savvy consumer you do not want to be misled by such claims.

While an altered microbiota or dysbiosis as discussed in the last post has been implicated in obesity, the metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), atherosclerosis, type 1 diabetes, autism, allergy, asthma and celiac disease, a cause-and-effect relationship per se, has not yet been described.

So what can consumers do to help tap into the health promoting potential of probiotics, while ensuring that they make informed decisions when it comes to choosing products, commercial or otherwise? Do you use probiotics? Had you heard of prebiotics before? Read on for the science behind this…

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Posted in Digestive health, Probiotics | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The classic bread pudding without the classic calories!!

Dear fellow bloggers and readers,

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you all had a marvelous Thanksgiving as we did at our house. Our daughter, who is an avid cook herself, takes charge of the Thanksgiving menu every year and has been doing so from the time she was in her mid teens, about 6 years ago. Let me tell you that I am truly thankful to be relieved of the burden. My husband, our son (her older brother), and I then get assigned “sous chef” responsibilities while “The Chef” efficiently and passionately directs the production of a mouthwatering feast prepared from scratch.

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Waist watcher version: Warm bread pudding is served with a custard sauce. Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE, November 2015

We all work as a team, laughing and sharing the kind of camaraderie that bonds and brings families together. We had a moment yesterday when we could not locate the attachments for the hand-mixer, and had no option but to manually beat the eggs for the meringue. This is laborious work as many of you might know, and hence just when you felt that your arm was going to fall off from the rigorous stirring, we would gratefully pass (make that desperately dump), the wire whisk to the next person in line. To me that is the true spirit of Thanksgiving-families coming together, sharing moments of gratitude and joy, but more importantly extending this spirit throughout the year, not just on turkey day.

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Copyright, November 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Anyways, thank you for indulging me on my TG reflections:). Now back to the business of blogging on nutrition matters….

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Posted in Desserts, Get cooking | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Hot and sour paalak (spinach) with peanuts: gluten free,vegan.

As we move inexorably towards …dare I say the word, “winter”, heart warming soups, stews and curries reign supreme at the dinner table at our  house. I don’t know about you, but somewhere around mid-October, as the crisp New England air ushers in fall and winter, the salads get elbowed out of the menu to make room for hearty, full-bodied soups and piping hot, crock-pot meals. As a Registered Dietitian, I am always looking for ways to keep vegetables with their multitude of nutrients center-stage, and this notion is what inspired me to post this heirloom recipe passed  down to me by my mother who in turn inherited it I am told, from her mother…

© Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Hot and sour paalak (spinach) with peanuts. © Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Medley of flavors: This soup is a treat for the taste buds as the recipe artfully blends tart and sour from tamarind with the spicy heat of hot green chilies as well as a mildly sweet flavor imparted by the jaggery, all in one dish! The end result is a soup that will leave the family hankering for more, I promise. This versatile dish may be served as a curry or side dish with whole wheat Indian rotis or basmati brown rice.  Better still, you may just dig right in and slurp it up with a soup spoon. Either way it is sure to please the palate!

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Posted in Get cooking, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Kesar (saffron)-mango halwa. A Diwali special!

Diwali, the festival of lights is one of the major holidays celebrated by Hindus worldwide and starts in a couple of days. The festival spans across 5 days and symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. The lighting of the traditional earthen oil lamps and lanterns is symbolic of dispelling the darkness (metaphorically and literally), by illuminating every corner of one’s home. Elaborate rangolis adorn verandahs and courtyards, while home-made paper lanterns in spectacular colors dot rural and urban landscapes, gently swaying in the breeze, as children and adults alike light the ubiquitous firecrackers that are such an integral part of how this colorful festival is celebrated in India.

Saffron-mango halwa. © Copyright, November 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Saffron-mango halwa.
© Copyright, November 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Nostalgia lane: I have vivid memories of my grandmother and mother “cooking up a storm” in the weeks leading up to the festival, as they prepared scrumptious sweets and savory snacks to share with family, friends and neighbors on this holiday. The most divine aromas wafted down hallways as cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron were sprinkled into traditional Indian sweets, and sandalwood was combined with whole turmeric to create a fragrant home-made paste that was applied to the face before the traditional oil bath, and before dressing in your “Sunday best”.

© Copyright, November 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

© Copyright, November 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

On this auspicious occasion, I would like to post a recipe that is fitting, I hope, for this occasion. The featured saffron-mango recipe is called a “halwa”. Somewhat similar to a pudding, halwa is a traditional Indian dessert often made by cooking carrots (carrot halwa) or semolina (suji halwa) with sugar, milk and fragrant spices. The featured recipe adds a festive touch to the traditional semolina halwa by blending the aromatic and luscious mango pulp and saffron strands with the semolina and milk base, to create a virtual “melt in your mouth” dessert.

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Posted in Desserts, Get cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Falling for fall’s flavors: Pumpkin-garlic-sage soup served in pumpkin shells. Gluten free.

Just in time for the holidays, this season-inspired pumpkin-garlic-sage-soup with a hint of cheese is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Pumpkin-garlic soup with sage and a hint of cheese. © Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Pumpkin-garlic soup with sage and a hint of cheese. © Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE, October 2015.

It’s been raining pumpkins in my local grocery store and I simply could not pass up the opportunity to grab the little beauties and make the ultimate comfort dish: sizzling, hot, cheesy, pumpkin soup seasoned with garlic and sage. Serving it in the scooped out, pumpkin shells is my salute to nature and adds a pleasing, rustic touch. I could swear that the soup somehow tastes better served in the pumpkin shells, but you can be the judge.  The sage and thyme add an earthy flavor, and the sharp cheese just the right hint of creaminess without overwhelming the palate (or your calorie budget!:). The cranberry garnish adds just the right hint of unexpected tartness (and holiday spirit) to top it off!

Pumpkin-garlic soup with sage and a hint of cheese. © Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Not just a pretty face: this soup is rich in nutrients too!  © Copyright, October 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

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Multi grain, (multi-nutrient) pancake with winter squash, spinach and sesame seeds.

Great for brunch or dinner, this wholesome, hearty, multi-grain pancake embodies the principles of sound nutrition by combining a variety of high fiber whole grains with vitamin A, iron and vitamin C from spinach, vitamin A from the in-season, vibrant, butternut squash that is so abundant at this time of the year, and a host of antioxidants. Sesame seeds add a pleasing appearance as well as healthy, mono-unsaturated fats to boot. Fresh radishes and the yogurt in the accompanying “raita” perfectly complement the spicy pancakes by cooling the palate. The recipe uses a scant 1/4 tsp of peanut oil per pancake, so dig in and enjoy!

This recipe is a spin-off on the traditional “thaalipeeth“, a specialty dish that hails from my native state of Maharashtra in India. The original recipe blends a variety of whole grain flours, onions, cilantro and green chilies just like the featured recipe, but I added the spinach and winter squash to kick it up a notch on nutrient content. The recipe conjures up fond memories of my grandmother and mother patting the pancakes with their bare hands, shallow frying in oil on a cast iron pan and then serving piping hot with the inevitable glob of home-made (you read that right !!), home-made butter!! What’s not to love!!!

Whole grain(s) pancake with squash and spinach. © Copyright Sangeeta Pradhan July 2015

Multi,whole-grain pancakes with squash and spinach. © Copyright Sangeeta Pradhan, RD,LDN, CDE, July 2015

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Harvesting fall’s bounty: Apple, ginger and butternut squash soup, gluten free. 

As the unmistakable sights and sounds of autumn fill the fresh, crisp New England air, and bright oranges, yellows and auburn hues become a sight to behold on highways and winding country roads, the mind turns to comfort foods that are warm and soothing to the palate. Visions of heart warming soup come to mind and taking a cue from nature, I feel the urge to incorporate her gorgeous colors into my home-made meals.

Apple-ginger-butternut squash soup. © Copyright, September 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Apple-ginger-butternut squash soup. © Copyright, September 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

This apple-squash soup is one such nature inspired concoction that blends autumn’s bounty and breath-taking colors into a heart warming soup that’s sure to please the taste buds and entice your guests to flock back for seconds. Beware! The ginger and red pepper flakes add a spicy punch to the silken texture of this soup. “Nutrilicious”, and only 130 calories per 1 cup serving!!! So go ahead and indulge!

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Posted in Get cooking, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , | 44 Comments

The low-down on high glycemic index foods

If you have been following the news in the world of nutrition, you are no stranger to the all too familiar pendulum swing of the use of the glycemic index or GI for meal planning.  This article will:

  1. Define the GI and GL (glycemic load),
  2. Explore the controversy
  3. Outline the current research
  4. State the American Diabetes Association position statement and
  5. Summarize the findings
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In general, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes tend to have lower Gi values. Copyright, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE, Aug 2015

What is the GI? : The GI is a means of ranking carbohydrate containing foods based upon how they affect blood sugars after consumption.  To rank a food, 50 grams of digestible carbohydrate from that food is compared with a reference food such as glucose or bread, and then assigned a value1.

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Reading between the lines of a Nutrition label for hidden and “added” sugars!

In a previous post, we looked at the menace that sugar and HFCS can pose to our health. At the end of the day, even though we have emerging, “smoking gun” evidence against these caloric sweeteners, my take on it is that we cannot  solely put the blame on sweeteners for the obesity crisis in America. Obesity is multi-factorial and we need interventions at multiple levels and a grass-roots movement before we can even begin to tame the monster.

Nevertheless, a few guidelines to reduce our sugar intake, and in particular, added sugars, are in order and I would like to devote this post to these guidelines

Let’s begin by reviewing  what are added sugars, what is the current state of affairs with respect to added sugars, and then proceed to the guidelines.

 Picture courtesy of http://www.tangandspice.com/. All rights reserved.

Added sugars include all sugars used in prepared and processed foods. Picture courtesy of http://www.tangandspice.com/. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Carbohydrates | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Sweet, enticing and dangerous??: The truth behind sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup!

The sugar debate, (reminiscent of the fat debate) rages on with folks on either side of the aisle taking strong positions, as is true with most debates- especially those waged over politics, religion and of course…food!

Sucrose or table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. © Copyright Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE August 2015.

Sucrose or table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose, very similar in composition to HFCS or high fructose corn syrup © Copyright Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE August 2015.

The shocking truth: What, you might ask is all the fuss about? The simple answer is that there is a lot at stake if we maintain the status quo for added sugars in our diet. For starters, did you know that just one 12 oz can of soda contains a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar??! Would you ever put that much sugar in your cup of morning coffee?! This tops the suggested, added sugar per day guideline set forth by the AHA as I will note in the sequel to this post next week.

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Can you eat and exercise your way to a smart brain? Don’t miss the results of promising new research!

Brain boosting foods: A slew of research in experimental animal models as well as human beings demonstrates that certain dietary components may actually  impact brain function and cognitive ability, opening up novel and exciting approaches to manipulate one’s diet to enhance memory and cognitive function (1).

While numerous studies have linked a typical Western diet high in saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugars with compromised cognitive function, Alzheimer’s disease (2), and other neuro-degenerative conditions (3), diets high in omega 3- fatty acids (4), curcumin or turmeric (5), and flavonoids (a class of anti-oxidants) (6), are known to have the opposite effect.

There is also some emerging research that shows Vitamin E, a fat soluble vitamin (7), and exercise (8), may also play a beneficial role in this process.

The superstar, BDNF: In this context, an important molecule called BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor, a neurotrophin (signals neurons or nerve cells to survive, and grow), has been receiving attention as it plays the lead role in neuronal plasticity.

What is neuronal plasticity? (Think increased flexibility or pliability of the nerve cells in the brain). Neuronal plasticity could be defined as the ability of the neurons (nerve cells in the brain) to respond with adaptive changes to internal and external conditions. The process by which our experiences can reorganize neural pathways in our brain is called neuroplasticity. For example, sustained changes occur in the brain when we learn something new, or the  brain may reorganize in response to injury, disease or environmental changes.

BDNF is most abundant in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, that is involved with memory and spatial orientation.

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Plant oils and nuts contain the potent antioxidant Vitamin E with smaller amounts from leafy greens.Copyright © 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan

Dietary components that raise BDNF are, therefore not surprisingly associated with enhanced cognitive ability and vice versa.

Rejuvenate with Vitamin E: In a 2002 study by Moteni and Barnard, a two month exposure to a high fat diet  reduced hippocampal levels of BDNF and impaired spatial learning performance in rats (9), however in other experimental studies in which rats on a high fat diet were supplemented with Vitamin E, this antioxidant significantly reduced free radical damage caused by consumption of the high fat  diet and actually reversed the diet impaired cognitive function (7). Plant foods, especially plant oils, wheat germ and nuts  are the primary source of vitamin E in the diet, with smaller amounts in leafy vegetables and some fruits.   Continue reading

Posted in Food and brain health | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Cracking the coconut and saturated fat controversy!

If you are one of the many folks who recently tossed olive oil in favor of coconut oil, read on… you definitely do not want to miss this one…

Is saturated fat the real culprit? The relationship between saturated fats and an increased risk of heart disease has been well established in the medical literature. In March 2014, however, a systematic review and meta analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine muddied the waters, suggesting that there was no evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease. It concluded, “Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats”(1).

Media reaction: A media frenzy ensued with popular media articles such as the NY Times calling for the return of butter and other saturated fats. In my own practice, I encountered patients who were getting increasingly confused and sadly disillusioned with all the mixed messages they were receiving. As it turns out, the study was deeply flawed, and was greeted with staunch opposition. One expert, Dr. Walter Willet, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, called the findings into question (1).

What are we substituting for saturated fats? What’s important to note here is the kinds of foods that we are substituting for saturated fats, as we knock them out of, or at least limit their intake in our diets. Most folks do not simply eliminate saturated fats in their diet. They replace them with something else to keep the calorie intake consistent. When these fats get replaced with refined and processed carbs (think fat-free animal crackers or fat-free pretzels), the subsequent spike in blood glucose can release a large amount of insulin from your pancreas, raise a form of fat in your blood called triglycerides and lower your healthy or HDL cholesterol. Thus the replacement of saturated fats with refined carbohydrates can be even more  detrimental to health.

Butter contains approximately 68% saturated fatty acids and is considered a form of saturated fat. © Copyright 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Butter contains approximately 68% saturated fatty acids and is considered a form of saturated fat. © Copyright 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

On the flip side, when you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats (mono and poly), this can  favorably impact your cholesterol levels-i.e. lower LDL (lousy cholesterol) and raise HDL (2). (As an example, you may want to start sautéing vegetables in olive oil as opposed to drizzling them with butter.)

Another food that has been touted by the media most recently as the next super food, is coconut. Coconut’s claim to fame may have come about because more than half of the fatty acids it contains are medium chain fatty acids called MCTs (the fatty acid chains in MCTs have between 8  to 12 carbon atoms). Recent studies show that MCTs are more readily oxidized by the body and hence not as easily stored as fat, compared to LCTs or long chain triglycerides. This confers a distinct advantage for those of us who are eternally fighting the battle of the bulge, and who would like to lose weight. What is interesting about MCTs is that they are able to bypass a metabolic route in the body that other fats such as olive oil cannot (3).

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