Pasta portions — the companies that sell it and Strega Nona disagree

When my children were young, I would read them the adventures of a character called Strega Nona. I loved the book because Strega Nona is Italian, the book was written by an Italian, and I hoped it would give my children a sense of their Italian side. It also had a goofy character named Big Anthony who remind me of my cousin Anthony, so it worked in so many ways.

Four ounces of pasta, before cooking.
Four ounces of pasta, before cooking.

Strega Nona had a magic pasta pot that could make as much pasta as she directed it, what Italian boy wouldn’t want one of those?

Pasta, which we actually called macaroni in my Italian-American home in Brooklyn, was a ubiquitous part of our weekly menu. It was always part of Sunday dinner and probably served at least one weekday every week as well.

Since my heart surgery in 2012, I’ve been told by nutritionists to stop eating regular pasta altogether and switch to whole grain and multigrain varieties. that’s meant almost no pasta at Italian restaurants anymore since so few offer whole grain varieties. So when I make the multigrain type at home, I tend to eat a lot of it, just like I did as a kid.

A box of Barilla whole grain penne says a portion size is two ounces, or 56 grams, of dry pasta. I can usually eat half a box which is 6.5 ounces,so I decided to measure out two ounces recently on my food scale to see how much it was.

Adjusting the scale to zero with a measuring cup on it, I started adding pasta. Two ounces didn’t even fill a one-cup container, so I ended up with four ounces on the scale, filling the cup and putting the rest on the scale itself.

Four ounces of pasta cooked. Barely filling my plate.
Four ounces of pasta cooked. Barely filling my plate.

I cooked that up and put it on my plate. What had been 4 ounces dry filled the plate, barely, but it did not really fill me. It left me wishing Strega Nona’s pasta pot was somewhere nearby.



Eating at Asian restaurants with their high-salt options — here’s some alternatives

Chinese food, more correctly old-fashioned Chinese-American restaurant offerings like fried rice, spare ribs, egg rolls and lobster-filled fried wontons, is perhaps the cuisine I miss the most since switching to a low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet after my 2012 angioplasty.

My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.
My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.

I went back to it on a birthday in 2014, with unpleasant results. And I’ve found some ways to make Asian dishes at home with a salt-free teriyaki marinade.

So I was interested to read a post on former Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels’ site headlined “Learn Healthy Options at Asian Restaurants.” I generally think there are none, but she started out with one that I can actually agree with — sashimi instead of sushi at a Japanese place.  Continue reading “Eating at Asian restaurants with their high-salt options — here’s some alternatives”

Eating out salt, fat and calorie minefields from WebMD

I’ve been writing this week about a special issue of the WebMD newsletter dealing with eating out. One article got very specific about items to avoid as various fast-food outlets and what to buy instead.

Deep dish pizza--those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end.
Deep dish pizza–those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.

I pointed out those substitutes all were too high in salt, as far as my diet is concerned. This post looks at another article entitled Worst Restaurant Meals.

Continue reading “Eating out salt, fat and calorie minefields from WebMD”

WebMD offers a fast food quiz you should try

WebMD recently sent me an e-newsletter that focused on eating out and trying to find the least unhealthy options at a variety of fast food outlets. I blogged about one story in it looking at fast food alternatives. You can read my post by clicking here.

The Quizno's meatball sub, a salt bomb if ever there was one.
The Quizno’s meatball sub, a salt bomb if ever there was one.

This post provides a link to a fast food quiz in that same newsletter. Take it by clicking here. 

The quiz will likely surprise you, it certainly surprised me. I study fast food options intensely, so thought I knew all about that realm. This quiz is a good reminder that there are hidden calories and hidden fat everywhere, often in items where you least expect it.  Continue reading “WebMD offers a fast food quiz you should try”

My diet is better than yours is…over?

ABC’s My Diet is Better than Yours ended somewhat abruptly last week, I thought. The series has been showing two one-hour episodes back-to-back, which appeals to those fo us who are into binge viewing these days.

Shaun T, the host of My Diet is Better than Yours. One of the most emotional TV hosts ever.
Shaun T, the host of My Diet is Better than Yours. One of the most emotional TV hosts ever.

The first hour last week was the final week contestants would have their trainers.

I was looking forward to seven weeks, or seven hours, of watching them try to lose weight on their own. but that time period was all compressed into the final hour show with a final weigh-in ala Biggest Loser, except without the studio audience and confetti at the end.


My take-aways from the show: Continue reading “My diet is better than yours is…over?”

My Diet is Better than Yours: worth a look

ABC this week premiered a new show, My Diet is Better than Yours, that sounds  a bit hokey but was fascinating viewing for me. It’s a variation of Biggest Loser on NBC.

On the ABC show, contestants get to pick a diet plan and diet plan advocate to follow and train with. The five diets all have some wacky elements to them but they’re basically about eating less processed foods and exercising more, which is really the secret to any successful weight loss.

Shaun T, host of My Diet is better than Yours

What I found most interesting was the low self-esteem all the contestants expressed. It was really sad to hear about all these  unhappy people hiding behind food. I’ve done it myself and still do it, so I understand, but it’s still sad to see it on the air. Continue reading “My Diet is Better than Yours: worth a look”

2015 — a setback year in my battle against fat and sugar

My 2012 angioplasty set me on a path to change my eating habits to lessen the chance of future heart problems. I went on to drop nearly 30 pounds over the first two years after the surgery.

But 2015 proved a setback year for me, so much so that last week I went out to buy some 40-inch-waist pants again, after having thrown out the ones I had back in 2012.

Nathan's hot dogs and waffle fries, wondrous stuff.
Nathan’s hot dogs and waffle fries, wondrous stuff that led to my gaining six pounds in four days of New York City eating

Studies have pointed to increased risk fo heart problems for men with waists larger than 38 or 39 inches.

I’ve hovered between 38 and 40 most of my adult life, getting as high as a 44 at one point. I find my equilibrium waist, the size I feel most comfortable with, is normally around 39, which puts me in dubious territory heart-wise.

So what happened last year? I got tired of always being hungry, for one thing. Also, a variety of external stress factors as the year wore on simply wore down my resolve to eat well.

I gained 14 pounds over the course of the year, but six pounds of that came in December thanks to a trip to the place of my birth, New York City, where I ate all the foods I grew up loving — all high in fat, sugar, salt and calories.

My eating binge continued into the Christmas-New Year’s holidays as I once again ate chocolate and candies I have largely given up.

With a new year here now, it’s time for me to jump back on the low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar bandwagon, which will mean  a return to hunger pangs but, also hopefully, a return to a smaller waist size as I drop enough pounds to go back to my 38-inch-waist pants.



Sugar is in the health crosshairs again

I’ve written about how sugar is being demonized as the real cause of heart disease and other health problems. I’ve also said sugar has been the most difficult on the evil triad of foodstuffs — fat, salt and sugar — for me to give up. I’m down to about 100 grams a day, with much of that coming from bananas (16 grams each, I eat two a day, so 32 grams of sugar there to start).

I've found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.
I’ve found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.

The anti-sugar movement got a big push forward this week with new Food and Drug Administration recommendations that we should eat no more than 50 grams of sugar a day. The recommendation, the first time the agency has put a cap on sugar consumption, got massive media play, including this New York Times piece.

Sugar, like salt and fat, is in most every processed food. Items “like low-fat yogurt, granola and wholegrain breads, as well as in ketchup, pasta sauce, canned fruit and prepared soups, salad dressings and marinades,” reports the Times. Continue reading “Sugar is in the health crosshairs again”

Another knock on processed meats, this one from WHO

Processed meats, such as hot dogs and cold cuts, are full of sodium and other things that have led me and many others to avoid them in recent years. I’m always amused by Subway calling its sandwiches healthy when they’re filled with high-sodium processed meats, for example.

Nathan's hot dogs and waffle fries, wondrous stuff.
Nathan’s hot dogs and waffle fries, wondrous stuff.

Another knock on processed meats came from the World Health Organization (WHO) recently. It pointed to a link between an increased likelihood of cancer and the consumption of processed meats. The report also threw in red meat as a possible cancer causer. Continue reading “Another knock on processed meats, this one from WHO”

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