Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Overcome those Sugar Cravings

Sweet is the first taste humans prefer from birth. While it seems that our craving for sweet foods may be hardwired into our DNA, it is possible to keep these cravings in check.

Here are five simple strategies you can use to help overcome your sugar cravings.

1.      Eat regularly: Sugar is the brain’s only source of energy, so when we become overly hungry or skip meals, our sugar craving is the brain’s way of letting us know it needs energy. Try planning ahead to incorporate healthy snacks into your daily eating plan so that you — and your brain — don’t feel energy deprived.

2.      Choose foods high in fiber such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables: Foods high in fiber digest slower, so you feel fuller for longer. Refined carbohydrates such as candy, baked goods and sodas may give you a short-term energy boost, but you’ll quickly feel sluggish and end up craving more sugar.

3.      Balance your meals and snacks with good sources of protein or healthy fats: Just like fiber, protein and fats are digested more slowly and will keep you satisfied throughout the day. Nuts and nut butters, avocados, beans, eggs and lean meats are all excellent sources of proteins or fats that you could incorporate into your meals and snacks.


4.      Cut back on caffeine: Cutting out caffeine completely may be unrealistic, so just try reducing your intake to one cup in the morning. Caffeine can suppress your appetite initially, but once the effects wear off, your blood sugar may have already dropped too low. The result? Intense sugar cravings.

5.      Slow down and manage your stress: Eating carbohydrates releases endorphins and can impact the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that can calm and relax us. During times of high anxiety or stress, our sugar cravings may be triggered by our emotional needs. Rather than using food as your source of comfort when you’re upset, try using other methods to cope. If you’re lonely, call a friend. If you’re feeling overwhelmed,  step outside and go on a walk, hike, or meditate.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Heart Healthy Citrus Salmon

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we think you should put aside all the unnecessary pressure and heightened expectations the day often brings. Simply think of Valentine’s Day this year as a good excuse to share a delicious meal with someone you love – or even to make a delicious meal just for yourself!
And let's face it, a delicious meal usually involves some fatsIt wasn’t long ago when everyone was afraid of fats – they were thought to be responsible for weight gain as well as being the culprit for causing disease. Now, we know better!  Food scientisits and registered dietitians now know that it’s not so much the amount of total fat that clogs your arteries; it’s the type of fat you choose.
Take salmon, for example. Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids - a type of polyunsaturated fat, found mainly in cold water fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and halibut. Omega 3s help to lower blood pressure and reduce the level of triglycerides (fat) in the blood.
And now, for a recipe.
Citrus Baked Salmon

Salmon and is oh-so delicious when paired with citrus flavoring. Oranges and lemons are in season this time of year and boast high levels of Vitamin C –the most well-known antioxidant for promoting a healthy immune system. High citrus-fruit intake is also linked with a 40 to 50 percent reduction in risk for several cancers.

Serves 4

4 (4 ounce) wild skinless salmon fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Lemon pepper, to taste
Juice of one lemon
4 slices fresh lemon
4 slices fresh orange
4 sheets of aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat both sides of the salmon with olive oil. Season with lemon pepper and sea salt. Place the salmon fillets into the center of each piece of aluminum foil. Squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over each fillet. Cover each fillet with one slice of orange, one slice of lemon.

Fold the sides of the foil over the fish, covering completely and sealing the packets closed. Place the foil packet in a 9 x 13 baking pan. Repeat until all of the salmon have been individually wrapped in foil and placed on the baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until salmon is cooked through. You may need to open one of the packets to check.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy this Valentine’s Day recipe for yourself, or with the one (or ones!) you love.

These seasonal tips & recipe were featured in the February 8th issue of
The Health & Family Guide for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
For more “In Season” tips & recipes, pick up the next issue of
he Health & Family Guide on March 8th.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I love the food of New Orleans, with all its porky, deep-fried goodness. If you doubt that, read this.

But, there are ways to lighten up the traditional New Orleans dishes, while keeping them deeply savory and swoon-worthy. If you're getting ready for your Mardi Gras party next week, here's your recipe: Spicy Andouille, Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya. Yes, it's healthy. But, very good. Even better, you can make it ahead (it's better that way!) so you can throw masks and beads to your guests instead of slaving over the stove.

It's a pretty simple recipe, not much different than making a soup or a stew.  But, there are a few tricks.

First, be sure and brown your chicken and sausages first, before you add the onions, celery and carrots.  Get them even more brown than this.

Add all of the aromatics to the pot, scraping up those brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, to release the flavor.

Add the spices to the vegetables, allowing them to 'fry' in the olive oil. The air should smell toasty and spicy.

Once you add the rice, you need to let it cook for about one-and-a-half hours. The brown rice just takes that long to absorb enough liquid and get tender. Don't skimp on time.

Finally, don't add the shrimp until the very last minute. If you make this the day before, don't add the shrimp until you serve it. Just reheat (adding water if necessary) and then add the shrimp and cook until just done. Otherwise, the shrimp will be rubbery and overcooked.

Finally, enjoy, preferably with the people who bring joy to your life. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Spicy Andouille, Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Serves 6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 links of andouille sausage
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/8 - ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending upon how spicy you want it
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 ½ cups medium grain brown rice, rinsed well
1 cup beer (like a lager or ale)
2 cups homemade chicken stock or water
1, 14.5 ounce can of whole fire-roasted tomatoes with juice, tomatoes torn in pieces
3 - 4 scallions, sliced
Sea salt, to taste
½ pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil and sausage slices.  Cook the sausage until well-browned. Remove sausage from pan and reserve.  Add chicken thighs, in one layer, being sure not to crowd the pan.  Cook until deeply browned on each side.  Remove and add to sausage.  Set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium.  To the pot, add the onion, celery, bell pepper and a little sea salt (about ½ teaspoon), cooking until the onions are translucent, and scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits from the sausage and chicken.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.  Add the spices (paprika through black pepper).  Cook for several minutes, until the vegetables are completely coated with the spices and it begins to smell toasty.  Add the rice and cook for a few minutes, until rice is also coated with spices.

Add the bay leaf, chicken stock or water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if necessary.  Stir in the sausage and chicken.  Cover pot and simmer for about 1 ½ hours, or until the rice is completely cooked through and tender.  Check the liquid after about 40 minutes to make sure it hasn't cooked down too much. If it seems dry, add another half cup to a cup of stock or water.  When rice is fully cooked, add the shrimp and simmer, uncovered, a few minutes or until shrimp are just cooked through.  Remove the sausages and slice into 1 inch pieces, on the diagonal.  Garnish with sliced green onions.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Avocado Yogurt Dip

Even the most sophisticated eaters still love to dip.

Hummus always makes eating carrots a little more fun.

And what’s a pita chip without the guacamole? 

Sweet yogurt dips are also starting to make a comeback with fruit.
And dipping strawberries in dark chocolate will never, ever go out of style.

One of our favorite dips is this Avocado Yogurt Dip. Not only does it taste great, the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from the avocados pair perfectly with protein-rich Greek yogurt to satisfy hunger while making for a more nutritious alternative to many store-bought, processed dips.

Lisa loves this dip paired with her fish tacos, while I love using it as a spread on my veggie sandwiches. It also is great for a topping on your chili, or as a dip for homemade tortilla chips and sweet potato fries.

1 large ripe Hass avocado
4 ounces Greek yogurt
Dash hot sauce
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
Sea salt, to taste
Lemon pepper, to taste



1.      In a small bowl, mash together the Hass avocado, yogurt, hot sauce, lime juice, salt, and lemon pepper.

2.      Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Enjoy, preferably with those you love.