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Healthy Recipe Doctor

with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dorm Survival Nutrition Tips (Part 2 of 2)

Grab & Go Breakfast, Snacks and Treats

For a variety of reasons, the one meal that college students tend to miss during the week is breakfast. The way I see it, breakfast offers an opportunity to save time and meal card money. By keeping quick breakfast options handy, you don’t need the extra time to get to the dining hall or campus coffee stop. The same can be said for snacks and treats too! Here are some dorm tips for all three of these.

Dorm Breakfast–Room Service!

  • Power bars (look for ones with more protein and fiber and less sugar)
  • Light frozen breakfast entrees like Smart Ones or Jimmy Dean Light (there are even some vegetarian options like Morning StarFarms Veggie Egg & Cheese Biscuits)
  • Instant oatmeal (less sugar options)—make with milk for added protein and calcium and topped with nuts and/or fresh or dried fruit
  • Whole wheat bagels (add peanut butter or light cream cheese or cheese for a more satisfying breakfast)
  • Whole grain (lower sugar) breakfast cereal enjoyed with low-fat milk and fresh or dried fruit
  • Yogurt parfait—yogurt topped with whole grain granola/cereal, nuts and/or fruit
  • Portable fruit adds to any breakfast (bananas, apples, grapes, pears, etc.)

Ready When You Need Them Snacks

To keep your snack portions sensible, put the amount you want in a small cup or snack size bag. You will be more likely to mindlessly eat from a large bag, large bowl or directly from the box.

  • Hearty healthy mixed nuts (unsalted or lightly salted)
  • Trail mix or dried fruit by itself
  • Tuna Salad Kit (i.e. Bumble Bee Fat Free)
  • Crunchy Almond Butter (spread on bread, rice cakes, fruit)
  • Whole grain cereal or granola
  • Whole grain crackers (pair with cheese)
  • Power bars with some protein and fiber
  • Multigrain chips and pretzels (Beanito’s Pinto Bean chips, Snyder’s multigrain pretzels, etc.)
  • No sugar added applesauce cups

For Your Sweet Tooth

  • 100% whole grain Fig Newton’s (or other cookies with some fiber and less sugar)
  • Sugar free instant pudding cups
  • Chocolate Mousse Cups (Jell-O)
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter and banana
  • Exotic dried fruit like mango and pineapple
  • Microwave s’mores made by topping one half graham cracker with 6 miniature marshmallows and some dark chocolate chips on the other half (open faced). Microwave on high for 20 seconds. Put the two halves together and enjoy!
  • Hot cocoa hits the spot. Have mixes on hand or heat your chocolate milk in the microwave.
  • Chocolate, caramel or vanilla flavored lollipops will take a long time to enjoy (don’t chew on them) and will satisfy your sweet craving.
  • If there is a freezer in your dorm refrigerator:

                Light fudge bars, light ice cream cups, chocolate chip waffles (higher in fiber)

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 9:18 pm

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dorm Survival Nutrition Tips (Part 1 of 2)

Refrigerator and Microwave Tips

By now, freshman college students have been at school for a few weeks. I’ve got a freshman and junior in college myself so I know that dorm life is exciting and challenging all at the same time.

There are lots of reasons why college students might want to stock up on healthy snack and light meal options for their dorm room: late night labs, no time for breakfast, saving on meal card costs, food allergies, or simply not liking the choices in the dining halls.

There are two keys to dorm survival success. The first is rigging your dorm room with an approved microwave and refrigerator, which will open up your options for food to have on hand. The second is having access to a car so you can stock up on these items. Even if you or your friends don’t have a car, many campuses have shuttles you can use or cars on campus that you can rent to make your supermarket run every few weeks. There may even be a supermarket within walking distance of campus (take a few friends with you and make it a social thing on the weekend).

Here are some suggestions for foods to keep handy in your dorm refrigerator:

  • Fresh fruit. Some fruits do well in the refrigerator (apples, melon, berries) while some do not (bananas, peaches, pears)
  • Fresh veggies. Rready-to-eat choices include baby carrots, celery and jicama sticks, cherry tomatoes, edamame.
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt (fancy it up with granola, nuts or fruit)
  • Hummus (serve with whole wheat pita or veggies)
  • Lowfat string cheese or cheddar cheese sticks
  • Single serving cartons or bottles of lowfat milk or chocolate milk (look for brands with less sugar)
  • Lowfat cottage cheese (enjoy with fresh fruit)
  • Turkey roll-ups (roll turkey slices up with cheese or avocado)
  • Whole grain bread(keep it in your refrigerator so it doesn’t  get moldy)

 Here are some suggestions for foods you can make in your microwave:

  • Light microwave popcorn packs
  • Dry meals that you add water to and microwave
  • Canned pasta meals
  • Single serving soups (there are many options with lower sodium and fat)
  • Instant Oatmeal (less sugar options are available)
  • Quick Quesadilla–add some cheese to a whole wheat tortilla and pop in microwave to melt the cheese
  • Bake a sweet potato in microwave and add some cinnamon
  • Bake a Russet potato in microwave and add vegetarian canned chili and cheese
  • Make microwave nachos with whole grain tortilla chips topped with canned vegetarian refried beans and cheese (top with anything else you desire)
  • If you have a freezer in your refrigerator, there are some lighter frozen microwaveable snacks available such as Lean Pockets made with whole grain and Ore Ida Bagel Bites 3-Cheese

Coming next: Grab and go breakfasts, snacks and treats.

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 4:12 pm

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grilled Cheese For Grown Ups

Who knew that grilled cheese sandwiches would be the inspiration behind a couple of new hip restaurants in San Francisco? It IS the ultimate comfort food, with its unbeatable combination of hot melted cheese in the middle and crispy browned bread on the outside.

It is also the type of sandwich that allows a cook to get creative—with the cheese or combination of cheeses, other fillers, type of bread, and complimentary spreads.

I didn’t realize just how grown up a grilled cheese sandwich could be until I saw the menu for The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, a restaurant in San Francisco. Their three most popular grilled cheese sandwiches are:

* The Jalapeno Popper (chevre, Monterey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, apricot-jalapeno relish)

* The Mushroom Gruyere (fontina, gruyere, roasted wild mushrooms + gold potatoes, melted leeks, caramelized onions, thyme butter)

* The Piglet (Tillamook sharp cheddar, artisan cured ham, apple mustard, rosemary butter)

Granted they are still using butter, albeit different herb butters, and I highly doubt their locally made cheeses are part-skim, but at least the bread used for most of their sandwiches is a whole wheat French country levain. The other grilled cheese restaurant in San Francisco, The Melt, uses eight-grain bread or white wheat bread for some of their sandwiches.

Grown Up Grilled Cheese Tips

When you are making your grown up grilled cheese sandwiches at home, besides using a whole grain bread, you can kick it up a health notch by using part-skim cheese (or use regular fat cheese but use a little less). Instead of slathering the bread with butter before grilling, you can brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil or use canola or olive oil cooking spray.

For fancy fillers, opt for nutrient-rich vegetables when possible to go with the cheese, such as:

  • roasted red peppers
  • tomatoes or roasted tomatoes
  • grilled mushrooms
  • sautéed spinach or kale
  • grilled or roasted eggplant
  • caramelized onions

If you are a grilled cheese lover, tell us your favorite way to make grilled cheese sandwiches!

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 6:59 pm

Friday, September 16, 2011

Recipe Makeover: Apple Blueberry Crisp

Fall is around the corner and my apple tree in the backyard is almost ready to raid, so I thought it was time to do a makeover on a popular American dessert—apple crisp.

The first thing I did was add some berries, which add color and flavor along with an arsenal of phytochemicals. The second change I made was to not peel the apples because the majority of the helpful phytochemicals are located in the apple peel. I used half whole wheat flour in the crumb mixture and kept the walnuts in there too (they add plant omega-3s, fiber, powerful phytochemicals, etc) but decreased the sugar and melted butter. I did substitute some maple syrup for some of the lost liquid from the melted margarine, but it was still lower in sugar from the original recipe.

Apple Blueberry Crisp

Apple Blueberry Crisp

Crisp Topping:

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (toast walnuts by spreading them on a nonstick frying pan and heating over medium heat until fragrant and light brown then chop the nuts)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup unbleached wheat flour

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine of choice

3 tablespoons maple syrup or light pancake syrup


4 cups sliced apples, cored but not peeled

1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons flour

Garnish: Light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (optional)


1.  Preheat oven to 375-degrees. To make topping, combine flours, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer. Drizzle the melted butter and maple syrup over the top and blend on low speed until crumbly. Add the chopped nuts and mix well.

2.  For the filling, put the apples and blueberries in a large bowl. Add sugar and flour over the fruit and mix gently. Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon the topping over the fruit, pressing down lightly.

3.  Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake on the center rack of oven until the topping is golden brown and the juices have thickened slightly (about 35 to 45 minutes).

Serve warm with light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt if desired.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

PER SERVING             BEFORE                  AFTER

Calories                           442 mg                    323 mg

Carbohydrates                   61 g                        52 g

Fat                                      22 g                        12.5 g

Saturated Fat                     10 g                          4.2 g

Cholesterol                         41 mg                     15 mg

Fiber                                     1 g                           5 g

Sodium                             162 mg                     62 mg

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 9:05 pm

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lean Pockets Spinach Artichoke Chicken

by Elaine Magee

My 18-year-old daughter actually liked this Lean Pocket better than the pepperoni pizza pocket. That got my attention. This frozen product might work as a snack or as part of a meal. The 250 calories isn’t going to get you too far if you are making this your lunch.

What I don’t like about this product is that like most processed snack foods, there is a long list of ingredients and too much sodium. But for those hopefully rare times when you are looking for a convenient hot product, this one may fit the bill. (more…)

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 2:51 pm

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Calories Posted on Restaurant Menus Influence Your Choices?

by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

I know that my decision on what to order in a restaurant is, to a certain extent, influenced by the number of calories I see posted next to it on the menu board or menu. Granted, I usually have a good idea what the lighter choices are.

The Affordable Care Act imposed a requirement that chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets post calorie counts on menu boards, so you’ll be noticing this more and more in the months to come.

I think there is a percentage of people who aren’t going to be affected by this information and who perhaps simply don’t care about their health. But there are plenty of other folks who will factor this information into their decision. I don’t think this is a good thing for people who are in the throes of an eating disorder or who have a tendency toward restrictive eating or obsessive behavior. So my question is: do you think this will help the people it is intended to help — people who are overweight or obese?

A few nights ago, I was at an Italian restaurant in my town, where they have the calories posted on the menu. The dish I wanted with smoked chicken breast, mushrooms, and whole grain pasta had around 1,000 calories next to it, clearly from the cream listed last in the description. When the waiter heard my apprehension, he said that ever since they posted the calories, certain menu items weren’t as popular and were subsequently taken off the menu.

So what did I do? I asked that my dish be prepared extra light on the cream. I also ended up eating only half of it. Not because of the potential calories, but because I ate it slowly and that was the amount that was satisfying.

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 1:01 pm

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Granola Bars

Kashi TLC Crunchy Granola Bars have a flavor you don’t often see or expect in a granola bar—Pumpkin Spice Flax.

I look for any bars I buy to have close to 5 grams of fiber and at least 5 grams of protein. I also hope that it has less than 8 grams or less of sugar. These bars have all this, plus great flavor. (more…)

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 12:53 pm

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Four Fantastic Breakfasts

What kinds of breakfasts are best?

Certain breakfasts — like low fiber cereals, breakfast shakes or smoothies, donuts, or a bagel with jelly or cream cheese — just don’t hold off hunger for very long, and you find yourself hungry again an hour or two later. (more…)

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 12:13 pm

Friday, August 26, 2011

Foods That Help Lower Your Cholesterol

It’s not what you take away but what you add to your diet that might lower your LDL blood cholesterol levels effectively, according to a new Canadian study in the August 24/31 issues of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

When people with high cholesterol added specific items — soy protein, nuts, viscous fibers, and plant sterols — to their diets for longer than six months, their LDL cholesterol levels decreased more than those of similar people eating a diet low in saturated fat. (more…)

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 5:58 pm

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New White Pasta That’s Also High in Fiber

If you have had a tough time passing off whole wheat pasta to your family, you will be interested in this new pasta by Barilla: Piccolini Rich in Fiber – White. It’s white in color but high in fiber.

This new pasta has 3 times more fiber than regular pasta. In a 100 gram serving, it provides over 40% of the daily fiber goal, and 30% of the daily whole grains recommendation. (more…)

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 3:52 pm

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