July 2016

The Freezer Diet

Is cooking really not your thing? Can’t tell a saucepan from a frying pan? Does your refrigerator hold an old bottle of catsup and maybe something furry on the bottom shelf that resembles the cat you’ve not seen in a week? Or, maybe you’re just pressed for time.

Never fear, the frozen food case could be the answer to your all-thumbs cooking and a hurry-up lifestyle. It also could undermine your health and waistline. It all depends on what you choose.

Frozen foods have several advantages over from-scratch cooking. They are super convenient, save you from messy kitchen clean up, and they stay fresh for months. They also are a great way to cook for one, since you can store anything from chicken breasts to orange juice concentrate in a use-as-you-need fashion. Without a doubt, portion control is their strongest asset. Portions have ballooned up to 10-fold in the past few decades, especially for calorie-packed foods like refined grains and meat. Frozen entrees, if chosen right, is one way to reign in those portions and help manage waistlines.

That’s exactly what researchers found at the University of Illinois, Urbana. In their studies, adults followed diets based on the Food Guide Pyramid, with one group planning two of their three meals around frozen entrees, while the second group ate similar calorie ranges from self-selected foods. After eight weeks, the people eating packaged entrees had lost significantly more weight than other dieters (up to 23 pounds).  The secret? Frozen entrees took the guesswork out of portions, while try as they might, even the most conscientious dieter overestimated self-selected portions, adding extra calories to the day’s total.


6 Freezer-Food Rules

Of course, the freezer case also offers many calorie and artery-clogging items, especially if the food is breaded, pre-fried, in a crust, or prepared in sauce, or is a dessert, such as the frozen cakes, pies, cookie dough, and regular ice cream. Here are six basic rules that can help you navigate the freezer aisle, followed by healthy options for every meal, including dessert.

Rule #1: Count Calories: You want a meal that will satisfy for a realistic – not too much and not too little – calorie load. For example, a 210-calorie entree has fewer calories than a cup of fruited yogurt – that’s a snack, not a meal. True, almost seven out of 10 Americans battle the bulge, but no one’s diet should drop below 1,200 calories a day. If people ate a third of their calories at each meal, that means at least 400 calories. For main-meal items – from pancakes and burritos to entrees – aim for about 100 to 150 calories less than 1/3 your total day’s calorie allotment. That leaves room for extras, such as milk, vegetables, or a salad.

Rule #2: Limit Total Fat: Look for foods that contain no more than 3 grams of fat for every 100 calories (example – a 350-calorie item should have no more than 10.5 grams of fat). Beware: Claims of “fat-free” or “low net carbs” doesn’t necessarily mean low-calorie.

Rule #3 Cut Saturated & Trans Fat: Choose items with no more than 1 gram of saturated/trans fat for every 100 calories – less is better.  Don’t be fooled by size. Many frozen foods squeeze ladles of saturated fat into those itty bitty plastic trays. Stouffers Macaroni and Cheese, for example, is dripping with 14 grams of saturated fat or 70% of your day’s total allowance. That’s frozen fat, not frozen food!

Rule #4 Stay Sodium Savvy: One of the biggest challenges when choosing frozen foods is not going overboard on sodium. Some entrees supply more than 75% of your entire day’s maximum allotment for sodium of 2,400 milligrams. Choose items with no more than 200 milligrams of sodium for every 100 calories (i.e., 600 milligrams sodium for a 300-calorie slice of pizza). If you select a food that is too high, then cut back on sodium elsewhere (unless you have high blood pressure, then all choices should be low-sodium).

Rule #5 Think Fiber & Protein: Whether frozen or fresh, choose foods that contribute 2+ grams of fiber per serving toward your daily goal of at least 25 grams. A general rule for main-course lunch and dinner entrees is that they provide at least 15 grams of protein.

Rule #6 Shop Beyond the Case: You can’t live on freezer food alone. Plan to venture into the produce and dairy aisles to round-out any meal. Even these items needn’t take much time to prepare. For example, add a glass of nonfat milk or a side of thawed berries to compliment your frozen breakfast, a piece of fruit, frozen fruit juice, or handful of baby carrots to accompany your frozen pizza at lunch, and an instant salad made from bagged lettuce along with a microwaved sweet potato or steamed frozen vegetables to accompany a frozen entrée.
Photo credit: thehealthreporter


Do One of These Diet Do’s Today

1. Weigh and measure your food for one day, to check how your typical servings compare to recommended servings.
2. Include no less than two servings of fruits and/or vegetables at every meal and snack.
3, Get one hour’s worth of exercise today, even if it is in sections of 5 to 10 minutes each.


The Latest Must-Read Nutrition News

1. De-Pressurize with Fish Oil: The omega-3s EPA and DHA lower blood pressure, according to a study from the University of East Anglia, UK. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, 312 adults with hypertension were given either placebos or fish oil supplements containing either 0.7 or 1.8 grams of EPA and DHA. Fasting blood pressure and blood vessel function were monitored. At the end of eight weeks, both fish oil supplemented groups showed significant reductions in blood pressure.
Minihane A, Armah C, Miles E, et al: Consumption of FISH oil providing amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid that can be obtained from diet reduces blood pressure in adults with systolic hypertension. The Journal of Nutrition 2016; 146:516-523.

2. More Women Are Overweight: More American women than ever are well-above their ideal body weight, state researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. According to the study, 40% of American women and 35% of men are obese. Among children, 17% are obese, while almost 6% are extremely obese. Overall, 38% of American adults are now classified as obese and almost 8% are extremely obese.
Flegal K, Kruszon-Moran D, Carroll M, et al: Trends in obesity among adults in the United States, 2005-2014. Journal of the American Medical Association 2016;315:2284-2291./ Ogden C, Carroll M, Lawman H, et al: Trends in obesity prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States, 1988-1994 through 2013-2014. Journal of the American Medical Association 2016; 315:2292-2299.

3. Multi-Vitamins Lower Heart Disease Risk: Men who take daily multi-vitamin supplements for years have lower risks for serious heart disease issues, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The link between supplement use and heart disease risk was compared in a group of 18,530 men aged 40-years-old and older from the Physicians’ Health Study. The men were free of heart disease and cancer at the study’s start, and no differences were noted between those men who already were supplementing and those who were not. At the 12.2-year follow-up, those men who had been taking a multivitamin for 20 years or more prior to the study’s start showed a 44% lower risk for serious heart disease problems, such as nonfat heart attack, nonfatal stroke, and death from heart disease. They also were less likely to require bypass surgery (called cardiac revascularization).
Rautiainen S, Rist P, Glynn R, et al: Multivitamin use ant the risk of cardiovascular disease in men. The Journal of Nutrition 2016; 146:1235-1240.
Photo credit: Neil Tackaberry via Compfight


Food & Mood Tip – Feed Your Brain

Your brain is a nutrient-needy organ, entirely made up of what you choose to feed it. Diet is the only place the brain gets the building blocks to run its highly sophisticated computer system, which in turn runs the whole body. Eating very healthfully will reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, protect against aging and disease, provide all the necessary building blocks for making and rejuvenating healthy brain cells throughout life, enhance brain cell communication, and maximize energy use. Trust me, don’t take your diet lightly – even one fatty meal has a subtle influence on your brain for up to 180 days! A grease-bomb burger also lowers testosterone levels in men, leaving them more interested in the recliner than the bedroom.

It goes even further than that. If you don’t adopt a healthy diet (and exercise program, you can expect about a 5% decline in memory every decade after your 20s. A study from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that people who did not take care of their minds in their 20s through 50s were three times more likely to develop Alzheimers in their 60s and 70s. In contrast, seniors who eat right, move more, and live well react and problem solve just as quickly as people who are decades younger. If you don’t want to be walking down Memory Lane in the future, you’d better start taking care of your brain now.
Photo credit: thebestbrainpossible.com


Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month

Zesty Shrimp and Spinach Salad (From Eat Your Way to Sexy by Elizabeth Somer)


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 minced garlic clove

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Splenda

salt and pepper

1 cup uncooked whole-grain rotini pasta

1 peeled, seeded, and cubed avocado

1 generous cup halved cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped red onion

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 pound pre-cooked, peeled, deveined large shrimp

4 cups baby spinach


  1. In a small bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, splenda, and salt and pepper (to taste). Set aside.
  2. Bring 6 cups water to a boil, add pasta and cooked according to directions on package or until al dente. Drain and Rinse.
  3. While pasta is cooking, combine avocado, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and shrimp. Add pasta and toss. Add dressing and toss.
  4. Place 1 cup baby spinach on each of four plates. Top with shrimp-pasta mixture. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Analysis per serving: 436 Calories, 45 % fat (21.8 g, 3.6 g saturated), 28 % carbs (30.5 g), 27 % protein (29.4 g), 7.1 g fiber, 314 mg sodium.


Your Nutrition Questions Answered

1. I know there are about 40+ nutrients that I need to get from my diet. Do my needs increase as I age?

Yes and no. Some nutrient requirements increase as we age, such as for vitamins B6 and D and calcium, while a few actually decrease, such as chromium and iron (for women). The rest stay constant through adulthood. However, most young and middle-aged people are already not consuming optimal diets packed with recommended levels of all the vitamins and minerals, so enter the latter years nutrient compromised. The solution? Throughout life take a moderate-dose multi vitamin and mineral that supplies 100% of the Daily Value for a wide variety of nutrients. Postmenopausal women should take a multi with less iron.

2. How much water should a healthy person drink every day?

The old adage to drink 8 glasses of water a day has been tossed out. A person’s need for water depends on a number of factors, including age, activity level, how much that person perspires, environmental temperatures, gender, and more. The best bet is to drink enough water throughout the day that your urine is pale yellow. Dark yellow urine is a sign the body is dehydrated and is attempting to conserve fluids.

See Next Month for Answers to These Questions?

1. What is the difference between the spices turmeric and curcumin?
2. How do I get enough calcium on a vegan diet?


Food Finds/Food Fails:

Food Finds:

1. Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame: They are low in fat (more than half the fat of peanuts), very low in saturated fat (only 0.5 grams per 1/4 cup serving), pack in 7 grams of fiber, 14 grams of protein and a few nutrients, such as iron and calcium, all for only 130 calories. What a great snack! Yes, they have sodium, but the Spicy Wasabi helps pack an extra wallop of flavor. They are great sprinkled on Thai and Asian dishes, too!

2. Balsamic Vinegar: You can seriously cut your intake of sodium and sugar, as well as save a few dollars by switching from bottled salad dressings to just plain olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In Italy, that is all you will find. The salad comes to the table dressing-free, and the bottles of olive oil and vinegar are on the table, alongside the salt and pepper, for you to add as you see fit. For a touch more flavor, sprinkle with the sodium-free Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute before tossing.


Food Fails:

coconutmilk1. Coconut Milk: Coconut is a fad the cycles around every ten years or so. It is not a health food. The “original” milk is sweetened with “organic cane sugar,” which is exactly the same as table sugar, it is high in saturated fat, and has no added vitamin B2, a nutrient supplied in ample amounts from regular dairy milk. If you are determined to drink coconut milk, make sure it is at least fortified up to 25% of the Daily Value for Vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12. Personally, if I was lactose intolerant and couldn’t drink regular low-fat milk, I would choose soymilk over this fad.


2. Love Grown Foods Oat Clusters Toasted Granola: This granola comes in a variety of flavors. Let’s just talk about the Sweet Cranberry and Pear and the Cocoa Goodness. This brand is another example of why you should never believe a food is healthy just because it is sold in a Health Food store or because it has words like “natural” or “love” or “organic” on the label. The recommended serving is 1/4 cup. That is four measly tablespoons or about the size of an apricot. Apparently, you are not supposed to fill your bowl with this granola, but rather sprinkle a few grains over another cereal, such as Shredded Wheat or Grapenuts. For that tiny serving you consume 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, and almost 2 teaspoons of sugar. But hey, it’ is “evaporated cane juice” and “apple juice concentrate,” which sounds healthy, but actually is just plain old concentrated sugar. Save your shopping dollars. The best granola I’ve found so far is Oat Cuisine (manufactured in Alameda, California) and KIND granolas.
Photo credit:  John Revo Puno via Compfight


This Month’s Menu Ideas:

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.


1 cup Shredded Wheat cereal

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts

2/3 cup nonfat milk

1 banana

Mid-Morning Snack:

Open-Face Creamy Apricot Sandwich: Blend 2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese, 1 teaspoon honey, and 2 apricots, chopped. Spread on a slice of 7-grain bread and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of chopped walnuts.

Water with lemon


1 serving of Zesty Shrimp and Spinach Salad

1 slice French bread


Mid-Afternoon Snack:

1 cup chocolate low-fat soymilk

1/2 whole wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon almond butter


Herb-Roasted Chicken: Combine 1 minced clove garlic, a pinch each of finely-chopped rosemary and thyme, and salt. Rinse and pat dry 1 skinned chicken breast and rub with herb mixture. Spray baking pan with vegetable spray and place chicken in pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, turn and bake another 15 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar while still in hot pan.

1 cup fresh broccoli, sautéed in 3 tablespoons chicken broth over high heat until heated through (about 7 minutes).

1/2 cup cooked instant brown rice mixed with 2 tablespoons caramelize onion (spray small skillet with vegetable spray, cook onions over medium-low heat with a pinch of brown sugar until golden brown).

Tomato Salad with Mozzarella: Slice a medium tomato, top with a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, and 1 teaspoon nonfat vinaigrette dressing.

Nutrition Score: 1,800 calories, 23% fat (46 g; 13 g saturated), 54% carbs (245 g), 23% protein (104 g), 1,150 mg calcium, 40 g fiber. 


What has Elizabeth been up to?

May 2nd through June 4th: Elizabeth was studying Italian cooking in Italy, including how to make pasta, stuffed squash blossoms, simple Italian sauces, and more.

June 20th: Elizabeth was on AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland, OR. Topic: Simple Switches to Improve Your Diet.

In August, Elizabeth will be on local TV shows in San Diego.

In September, Elizabeth will be speaking at the California Dental Association’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

In October, Elizabeth will be conducting a webinar on Food, Mood, Mind, and Memory.