We Need to Talk About Pizza

Pizza sliceFist bump

Today, I’m on a mission to simplify the challenge of reducing sodium intake in America. I am inspired by the Heart Association’s (AHA) sodium awareness campaign, the Sodium Swap Challenge, launched this week. AHA wants us to know about the “Salty Six” – bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meat, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches – common foods that are loaded with sodium – and then they ask us to cut back at the rate of two foods per week to change our acquired taste for salt in 21 days.

Kudos to AHA for a noble effort. Excess salt is associated with high blood pressure, a modifiable risk factor for stroke. And because sodium holds onto excess fluid, it can make us puffy and bloated. (Stop right there!) On average, Americans eat 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day; however, the dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300 mg and only 1,500 mg if you are 51 or older, have a cardiovascular condition, or are African-American.

First I Look at the Pizza

Back to simplification. Bread sales are down, as are canned soup sales, but the pizza market is growing. Cheese consumption has quadrupled since the 1950s. That’s because it’s on the pizza. The average American eats 10 pizza pies – 23 pounds of pizza – a year; 94 percent of us eat pizza (at least) once a month; 41 percent eat pizza (at least) once a week. Kids ages 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other foods.

Pizza is the go-to food for busy people. People who wouldn’t dream of dinner at McDonald’s think nothing of ordering a pizza or two. Do they know that a Big Mac with medium fries has 1310 milligrams of sodium, while the same weight of pepperoni pizza has 3249 milligrams?!! One pizza meal has enough sodium (and saturated fat) for two days.

Pizza is an amalgam of bread, cured meat (36% of pizzas are pepperoni), cheese, and tomato sauce, four top sodium foods from the Centers for Disease Control’s Top Sources of Sodium in the Diet, a better list.  To simplify sodium reduction, pizza-eating families and singles should look to pizza.

I’m glad we talked.

Your thoughts: Do you know anyone who eats too much pizza?

My Thoughts on Sarah Palin’s Diet Book

Mary Hartley as Sarah Palin

Yesterday, ABC News asked me for a quote about Sarah Palin’s new diet book. (The quote was not used.) I guess Palin’s book will be out soon, even though last October, People magazine couldn’t say if Palin had a contract or when the book would be published.

According to several news outlets, Palin said her book advocates “a balanced approach to weight loss” focusing on “self-discipline as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods.”  Of me, the ABC writer asked, “Is it OK to indulge once in a while?” and “Is this a good approach to weight loss?” To the first question, I answered, “Yes; only a control freak would not indulge once in awhile.” To the second question, I said, “Dunno.”

I do say this: Never take nutrition or medical advice from a celebrity.

Sarah Palin is no authority on diet and fitness, but she does have a loyal following and enough gawkers to sell a book. And then there’s the diet-crazed crowd. Get that book on the shelves by January 1st.

Sarah has lost some weight since she was a household name in 2008. She espouses a low-carb-, lean-protein-style diet, and so I presume that will be her focus. She drinks a “skinny white-chocolate mocha” for breakfast, and so I guess that is her indulgence. For decades, Sarah has been a distance runner, which accounts, in part, for her trim physique.

Without reviewing what Sarah actually eats, I cannot say whether her diet is wholesome and balanced. There are countless routes to a balanced diet. For instance, an Inuit does not eat like a Bantu, yet both native diets are correct.

I’m glad Sarah is happy with her own eating style, and as long as she meets her daily requirements for protein, carbohydrate, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds with nutrient-like activity that are known and still unknown, it doesn’t really matter whether she focuses on low-carb or low-fat. That’s because total calories matter most when it comes to weight control.

The Palin family’s food choices don’t have to be yours. Every individual needs to find his own style in terms of personal preferences, resources and “life-style.” (Not my favorite term)  For me, moose stew doesn’t work, and I doubt if Sarah has tried my Portuguese Kale Soup.

Your thoughts: Would you read Sarah Palin’s diet book?

The Goddess Served Vegetables

Well, kiss this cook and worship at my altar because I serve vegetables every chance I get.

Professor Brian Wansink of “Mindless Eating” fame, head of Cornell University’s Food and Brand lab, published a new study in the online journal Public Health Nutrition showing that smart preparation and presentation of a vegetable entrée boosts a diner’s perception of the person who prepared it.

Wansink asked 500 American mothers ranging in age from 18 to 65 years, with two or more children under age 18, to cook and serve meals with and without vegetables. The diners were then asked to evaluate cook who made the meals by choosing from a list of 12 attributes, such as “selfish” or “loving”.

Results showed that many more positive descriptors were used for the cooks who served vegetables. Vegetable servers were labeled “thoughtful”, “attentive” and “capable”, while non-servers were “neglectful”, “selfish” and “boring”. Overall, the inclusion of a vegetable created a better perception of the cook and of the meal as well.

Presently in the United States, vegetables are served as part the evening meal only 23 percent of the time. That’s a lost opportunity for sure. If you want to be a hero in your own kitchen, just add veggies to your meals. There’s no need to mention the nutritional benefits they give.

Check out this tasty and pretty way to eat cauliflower given to me by reader Lillie Zuck:
Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt Recipe

Your thoughts: Are you admired for your vegetables recipes? Share your favorites.

Adult Gummie Vitamins Save the Day

Have you noticed the explosion of gummy vitamins?  Every brand seems to make them now. I am most familiar with Nature Made, a company dedicated to demanding safety and quality standards. They introduced me to their new lines of supplements – Adult Gummies, Full Strength Minis, and VitaMelts – but today I am recommending the adult gummies because they saved the day – twice.

Case One
My 92 year old aunt needs vitamins. Her weight matches her age. This is Aunt Jean, not Aunt Pauline, who was helped a bit when Sugar-free Peeps Saved the Day. Aunt Jean cannot eat much because she has achalasia, a condition that affects the ability of her esophagus to move food toward the stomach, and so she has difficulty swallowing solids. She has had surgery and medications, but this is the best she can do. She clearly doesn’t eat enough, but I’m just the friendly visitor, not the Boost® police. Plus, she is picky, picky, picky. Her longevity is definitely not related to eating a balanced diet.
Aunt:      “Should I take these vitamins? Do they smell bad? They’re big”.
Me:         “You smell the minerals and, yes, those vitamins are too big. I recommend a multivitamin-mineral supplement that smells and tastes like candy. You can chew it.”
Aunt:      “I want that those.”
Me:         (Note to self: Picky eaters always like candy. Also, Nature Made describes their gummies as, “…mouth-watering, real fruit flavors like peach, mango and orange that taste like real fruit, not candy.”  I guess they had to say that.)

Case Two
My 29 year old daughter, Liza, has perfect health and a wonderful diet. (See A Whole Lotta Grain Goin’ On.) But – Liza is a preschool teacher surrounded by kids with colds. Back at school, week-one, she already has a cold. (Don’t give it to me!)  Perhaps a multivitamin-mineral supplement would help, if not for the nutrients, then for the affirmative action of taking it. Caveat: Liza does not swallow vitamin pills.
Me:         “Here, take this bottle of Nature Made Adult Gummies. I got it as a gift.”
Liza:       (90 days later and cold-free) I finished that bottle of vitamins. Do you have more?
Me:         “I don’t, but you can buy them in any drug store. Here is a coupon for $2 off.”

Conclusion:   Adult Gummies saved the day – twice.  As for me, I take Nature Made Full Strength Mini Multi for Her 50+. I have no problem swallowing little pills.

Your thoughts: Do you take a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement?

Toddlers & Tiaras & Energy Juice

I hope my upscale readers will forgive me for mentioning an odd thing that happened last month. Twice, I was asked to comment on Honey Boo Boo, a fat 6-year old from “Toddlers & Tiaras,” an uber trashy TV show on TLC. I was asked about the “Go-go Juice” that mama feeds to Honey Boo Boo to make her dazzle on stage. Watch them talk about it here.

Question: “Does offering an energy drink to a 6-year old constitute child abuse?”
Answer:     Well, yes it does, in my opinion, but this is ‘merica, the land of the free, and so, officially, I say,  “The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that all drinks with caffeine (e.g. Red Bull) are off limits to children and teenagers. Energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants that can raise heart rate and anxiety levels and increase the risk of dehydration.” And then Mountain Dew soda has even more caffeine along with water, preservatives, artificial flavors, and empty calories from sugar. Go-go juice is a bad idea for anyone, most especially a child.

In 2010, the F.D.A. issued warning letters to makers of energy drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine citing a health risk, and recently, the state of New York’s attorney general began investigating whether companies that make energy drinks are misleading the public about how much caffeine the drinks contain and the health risks they could pose.

Honey Boo Boo’s pediatrician needs to address her consumption of energy drinks and junk food, as well as her childhood obesity, but given the family and the public’s attention, I don’t think it will work. Honey Boo Boo can serve as an example of what not to do. ’nuff said.

Your thoughts: Do you see little kids drinking energy drinks?

Nutritious Snacks on TV!

Shelley Goldberg and Mary Hartley on NY1

In case you missed my interview with parenting reporter, Shelley Goldberg, on NY1 News over the weekend, you can watch it here.

With back-to-school season among us, now is the time to change your children’s eating habits. In the segment I outline some healthier options for your child’s breakfast, lunch and snack!

For a closer look at these better-for-you nutrition options, here is a list of recommended items and where you can get more info.

Olympus Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a thicker and creamier alternative to typical American-style yogurts. Compared to its traditional counterpart, Greek yogurt contains roughly the same amount of calories, but it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half. But buyer beware, not all Greek yogurt brands are not created equal. Olympus Greek yogurt, one of my personal favorites, as it is the only Greek strained yogurt in America  imported directly from Greece–and the difference is in the taste. Olympus’ deliciously thick and creamy yogurt is available in plain and fresh fruit flavors–including blueberry, strawberry, cherry, vanilla, lemon, peach and honey–making it a naturally filling snack for busy parents and growing children. www.olympusdairyusa.com

KAMUT® Khorasan wheat
Nowadays, ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth and spelt are turning up in every bread and cereal aisle. They’re healthful and tasty, and packed with whole grains, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Additionally, those have an intolerance to modern wheat (but not with celiac disease) often find ancient grains easier to digest. I particularly enjoy KAMUT® Brand Khorasan wheat, an ancient grain that is non-GMO and always grown organically, has naturally sweet taste, smooth texture and is packed with nutritious value. Recipes made with ancient grains such as KAMUT® wheat help establish well-rounded, nutritious meals that offer higher amounts of protein and minerals than ingredients made with traditional grains. www.kamut.com

B-Amazing Food BarsB-Amazing Food Bars
A fresh and colorful diet is one of the biggest contributing factors to overall health, and fruits and vegetables deliver nutrients and minerals needed for our bodies and minds to function at optimal levels. For parents looking to sneak fruits and vegetables into their child’s diet, B-Amazing! Foods has introduced nutritious, all natural food bar made with 50% fresh root vegetables and fruit. Unlike any other bar, B-Amazing! begins with a mixture of fresh sweet potatoes, carrots, yellow beets and squash. Then minimally processed, “real food” ingredients—such as organic whole grains, 5-7 different kinds of nuts and seeds, whole fresh lemons, oranges, cranberries, apricots and other fruits are added to create a delicious flavor. www.b-amazingfoods.com

LesserEvil Snacks  
Snacks can make up a significant portion of your child’s calories. With only 120 calories per serving, LesserEvil Krinkle sticks are a great-tasting snack option that parents can feel good about giving their kids. LesserEvil snacks are free of trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavors and high fructose syrup, and offer a guilt-free alternative to traditional junk food. They are low in sodium for a packaged snack food and kids will love the taste! www.lesserevil.com

Disclosure: I work with ADinfinitum, a full service PR agency for the natural and healthy lifestyle and wellness industry that represents these products – and I love sticking up for delicious, healthy food!

The Man Isle: Guys Being Gross

The Man Isle (not aisle) at the Westside Market in Chelsea

Yesterday, while waiting in the checkout line at the Westside Market in Chelsea, I finally got to see the “Man Isle,” a section of the supermarket devoted to entirely to men. The Man Isle is there to help dudes who want to make a quick exit.

Man Isle Food

The Man Isle is stocked with the most nutritionally devoid, gross processed food that only a knucklehead would eat. There are sugary cereals (Cap’n Crunch, Frosted Flakes), Doritos, ramen noodles, beef jerky, Milky Ways, Snickers, protein bars, Chips Ahoy, Muscle Milk, Red Bull, Gatorade, beer (20 kinds), coffee, spaghetti sauce, hot dog buns, and condiments such as hot sauce, BBQ sauce, mustard, ketchup, and pickles. The non-food items include razors, shaving cream, deodorant, dandruff  shampoo, body wash, and condoms.

Surely, this cannot be what men really want. In disbelief, I called Ian Joskowitz, Westside Market’s CEO. I asked, “Were the foods chosen for the Man Isle based on research or is this a joke?” Ian replied, “It’s not exactly a joke, but it is tongue in cheek. It’s what a guy might buy in a hurry before a party, but no one could subsist on that food.”

Phew! Faith in men restored. And it did take my attention off the checkout line. Westside market is one of my favorite NYC stores. For close-up photos of the food, see Check Out The Grocery Store Section Devoted Entirely To Men from the Business Insider.

You thoughts: Do real men eat healthy food?

I Wanna Be a Lobsterman

This is my brother, Peter. He is a lobsterman, actually the captain of the boat. A lobsterman is like a farmer except that agribusiness is not involved. There are no giant commercial farms owned by multinational corporations, no chemicals, no antibiotics, no genetic modifications, and no Monsanto beating down the door. Some people find lostering romantic; I find it dangerous. Same thing, I guess. I asked Peter about catching lobsters, and he told me this is how it’s done:

  • Get a fishing boat. Rig it to catch lobsters. Load 1600 lobster pots. Hire a four-man crew.
  • String bait, 3 to 4 skate to a string. Load 43 barrels of skate and a few pallets of poggies (menhaden) because the lobsters like a blend.
  • Steam from Rhode Island out to the coast of Maine where your lobster pots are already in the water. They are strung with line, 50 pots attached, 25 fathoms (150 feet) apart.
  • Drop anchor and haul in the pots with an electrical lift. Expect 10 lbs of lobster in each pot.
  • Land – Band – Bait (Land: bring in a pot and put the lobsters on the table; Band: place rubber bands around the claws and put the lobster in a tank of cold, aerated water; Bait: reload the empty pot with bait.)
  • Set Back: The pots are stacked on the deck in order: first pot in is the last pot out. Lower the lines while the boat is moving. Whatever you do, don’t tangle up the lines!
  • Repeat for 4 or 5 days, and then steam back to port.
  • Pack Out.  Back on shore, pump down the water from the holding tanks. Separate the lobsters into 100 pound crates.  Hoist the crates into a refrigerated truck.
  • Drive the truck to Boston where the lobsters are graded and sold: Select, Cull (one claw), Chicken (1 – 1.5 pounds), and Soft (this lobster has molted, only the cooked meat is sold)
  • Get paid. Hang around for a few days. Hope the crew stays out of jail. Get up and do it again.

    Your thoughts: Do you eat lobster?
    Lobster Nutrition: A 3-ounce serving of cooked lobster has only 76 calories, <1 g of fat, 16 g of protein, 413 mg of sodium, 184 mg of cholesterol, 160 g of calcium, 1.8 mg of iron, and a decent amount of potassium, zinc, other trace minerals, and niacin (vitamin B3.)

Please Join Me on TV


For a good time, I highly recommend being on live TV. On Monday, I was on the PIX11 Morning News in New York City talking about “Back-To-School-Week: Food Swap.” What a blast! ADinfinitum, a public relations agency that promotes healthy lifestyles with brand strategies and campaigns, placed me, and I got to talk about my favorite Olympus Greek Yogurt and two other cool foods, KAMUT® khorasan wheat (more to come) and B-Amazing! (amazingly healthy vegetarian) food bar.

To start, PIX11 is in the “Superman Building,” The Daily News Building, also called The News Building, and the fictional Daily Planet. It was the first vertically soaring, modernistic skyscraper without ornamentation in Manhattan. And look at the 4,000 pound glowing globe in the intact Art Deco lobby, circa 1929. The News Building is easy to get to, near Grand Central Station at 220 East 42nd Street. It is worth the visit.

Up in the station, it is not so fancy: low ceilings, bad coffee, busy bees. Sue Taggart, the owner of ADinfinitum and her team, along with the stylist from the station, arranged the food while I was busy with makeup, mike-up, practice, and changing into my big shoes. (I am vertically challenged and so I need a wardrobe of 5-inch platform heals!) Finally, it is show time with Suki! Sukanya Krishnan of PIX11 Morning News is a real live wire, all about having fun in the morning. And since FUN is my M-O (along with food and nutrition), Suki and I got along great. (Live footage of the segment is available on YouTube for a limited time. See below.)

Your thoughts: Glasses or no glasses? Liza says glasses. “They’re hip like Tina Fey.”

An Over-Extended Family’s Dream

That would be a visit from me. 🙂

Meet the Sharkey family, a working couple with two small children. I helped them to make over their family diet. They were in “damage control” mode and they couldn’t see the forest from the trees. I teased out the issues and then recommended small, simple, specific changes that added up to something significant. Now, they are practicing forever. (Join the club.)

You can read about the Sharkey family intervention, “Hectic to Wholesome,” in Consumer Reports Food & Fitness, a magazine devoted to family health. See my lifestyle suggestions, product recommendations, and “kid friendly” recipes.

Want to schedule an appointment with me? Read about my services.

Your thoughts: Can you relate to the Sharkey family?