What I Learned from Joan

Guest Blogger: Rob Szalapski

§ Why am I writing this?

I’m not a dietitian, but I have lived with one for many years. I have always been concerned with healthy eating, but Joan has really helped me to improve. I have seen her help so many people who were struggling with a variety of dietary challenges. Some surprisingly simple ideas capture so much!

§ Summary

“Protein, carbs and healthy fat at every single meal and snack!” I won’t even attempt to estimate the number of times that I have heard that phrase, but I will say that it captures the foundation of healthy eating. Protein, carbohydrates and fat are your macronutrients, and you want to be getting appropriate quantities at every feeding. This is important for having a good energy level, feeling satisfied rather than always feeling hungry and being generally healthy. You have probably heard a lot about micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and amino acids. I’m not really going to say anything about micronutrients except that if you are varying your sources of macronutrients prepared from fresh unprocessed sources, then most likely you are well on your way to getting it right. Your dietitian can help you make adjustments towards the ideal.

§ Healthy Fat

Fat is really important especially for brain health. Fat is also a good source of energy, and if I don’t have some fat in my diet, then I am insatiably hungry! There was a long-term trend to villainize fat, and that led to all sorts of problems including, ironically, excess weight gain. The fat in the olive oil in your salad dressing helps you to absorb all of the important fat-soluble micronutrients in your salad, and you will miss out on many of those healthy benefits if you choose a fat-free dressing. (With a lot of background in chemistry I simply cannot resist that factoid!)

So what are sources of healthy fat? Olives and olive oil, avocados, salmon and nuts and seeds are all excellent sources. Egg yolks were maligned for a long time, but it turns out that they are pretty healthy. With regard to meats, stick with lean choices. Prime rib isn’t the type of fat that you want to actively seek. A healthy diet is largely plant based, so consider focusing on those plant-based sources of healthy fat.

§ Protein

The primary activity of the cells in your body is the production of proteins. Proteins are built out of amino acids, and those amino acids come from the protein sources you eat. If you’re not eating protein, then you will not feel satisfied after eating, and worse, your cells cannot perform their vital functions. (My background in science is just irrepressible!)

Meat, fish and eggs are popular sources of protein. I like to have an egg or two as a part of my breakfast every day; the egg white gives me protein, and the egg yolk gives me needed fat. While most people are aware of these animal-based protein sources, not everybody is as well informed about the plant-based forms. Nuts contain protein. Additional important sources include your legumes such as lentils, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and pinto, kidney, black and red beans, etcetera. Remember the importance of eating a plant-based diet. Always consider ways to replace a bit of meat with something plant based. I like adding more beans to my chili while reducing the meat. I love Indian food which has many choices that include legumes.

§ Carbohydrates

Let’s go with the simple definition here. If it’s a plant, then it’s a carbohydrate, and it’s an energy source. You especially want to go with the choices that don’t contain a lot of starch and sugar. Non-starchy/non-sugary choices include things like lettuce and leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini and such. For breakfast I like to stuff omelettes with spinach, broccoli, mushrooms and peppers to make sure I am getting healthy plant sources without a lot of empty calories. At lunch and dinner I like to eat salads with plenty of romaine lettuce which is nutrient rich, but again it doesn’t have a lot of calories.

When eating grains, go for whole grains. I love the taste of pretty much all of the grains, but I have Celiac Disease, so I need to avoid wheat, rye and barley. I like brown rice, and my favorite grain is quinoa. Joan really likes kañiwa. With the grains it is important to consider portions, between one-half cup and a cup cooked. Processed grains should be minimized. Bread, pasta and cereals metabolize much too fast, and they promote carbohydrate craving rather than satiety. For myself it’s dangerous to eat a corn chip because I am likely to eat the whole bag!

Next we come to the starchy carbohydrates including such things as carrots and squash. These are good in moderation. With potatoes, yams and sweet potatoes are the better choice. While it’s a good idea to minimize white potatoes, at least eat the skin. French fries are popular, but they really aren’t the best choice. Most of your fruit choices will contain a lot of sugar. Fruit is on nature’s dessert menu. I like to enjoy some, especially when it is in season locally. Berries are among the better choices for a variety of reasons. Eat the whole fruit and avoid juices.

In this section I have been progressing from the better choices towards the better avoided. The worst choices include added sugar, artificial sweeteners, juices and corn syrup. Notice how many good choices are available. I should also mention that milk contains sugar, and so it contains all three macronutrients.

§ What Else?

Lifestyle matters. If you are getting good sleep and are regularly active, then you have a good start. A high-stress and low-sleep lifestyle is where things fall apart for many people. Taking the time to prepare a meal at home and sitting down to eat with family and friends is a great place to start. Joan can help you with taking steps towards a healthier you.

If you are cooking with simple foods that you could get directly from a farmer, then you are on the right track. When shopping in the grocery store, look for those simple plain ingredients. When purchasing grains, get whole grains and slow-cooking varieties, not the fast-cooking and instant varieties. Avoid the prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals. Healthy eating in restaurants is very challenging.


Chicken Salsa

Modified from a recipe developed by Katlyn Hutchings, MS, RD

§ Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 boneless chicken breasts.

  • Two (2) 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes. (Consider using flavored and low-sodium varieties.)

  • One (1) can of black beans, drained and rinsed.

  • One (1) can of small red beans, drained and rinsed.

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons chili powder, according to personal preference.

§ Method

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours. Once cooked the chicken is easily shredded with a fork.

§ Notes from Joan

  • A great protein and fiber source, serve with a side salad or other cooked veggies.

  • Excellent over a bed of romaine as a variation on a taco salad.

  • Serve over cooked spaghetti squash, quinoa, or brown rice.

  • Top with avocado slices and ripe olives as an excellent source of healthy fat.

  • Yields four or more servings. May store left overs in refrigerator 2 – 3 days.



Turkey Spinach Feta Burgers

Source: Katlyn Hutchings, MS, RD

§ Ingredients

  • One (1) pound ground turkey.

  • 8 – 12 oz. frozen spinach, not thawed, broken into small pieces.

  • 12 teaspoon black pepper.

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

  • Olive oil or avocado oil sufficient to coat frying-pan bottom.

  • Optional: 6 – 8 oz feta cheese.

§ Method

Mix all ingredients (except for oil) in large mixing bowl using a fork. Form into patties of desired size and quantity. Coat bottom of frying pan with healthy oil and preheat on medium heat. Add patties to hot pan, cover and cook about 5 – 7 minutes or until desired brownness on bottom of patties; reduce heat if smoky or if oil spatters. Flip patties and cook second side for another 5 – 7 minutes or until desired brownness achieved. Cool patties on plate which has been lined with clean paper towels.

§ Notes from Joan

  • Top with a juicy tomato slice, avocado or hummus.

  • May store left overs in refrigerator 2 – 3 days.

  • Delicious cold in a lunch bag, as a hot meal or as a quick snack.

  • A great protein source; eat with veggies for a complete meal with fiber and carbohydrate.



Chickpea Spinach Masala

Source: finecooking.com

§ Ingredients

  • One (1) 15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

  • 8 oz. spinach (fresh or frozen).

  • One (1) 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes. (Consider low sodium variety as appropriate.)

  • One (1) medium yellow onion, chopped.

  • 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil.

  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds.

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic.

  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger.

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander.

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin.

  • 14 teaspoon ground turmeric.

  • 14 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

  • 12 cup water.

  • Optional: 1 – 2 cups of cauliflower.

§ Method

Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cumin seeds, stirring often, until onion starts to brown, or about 3 – 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook one additional minute. Add remaining spices and stir in completely. Add water and fresh or frozen spinach; cook another 1 – 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and any optional additional vegetables. Cook about 5 more minutes. Using a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, mash the chickpeas. The mixture will thicken.

§ Notes from Joan

  • Both olive oil and avocado oil are sources of essential healthy fat.

  • This fragrant dish is packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

  • Serve as a vegetable side dish or as main meal with a whole grain if desired.

  • When using additional vegetables as a modification, you may omit mashing the chickpeas. The flavor will still be amazing!

  • Some may enjoy with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top.



How do I find recipes for my needs?

Some of these recipes are my original creations. Sometimes I post recipes from other sources and add my own comments and modifications. (And I always give credit to the original source!) But how can you find the recipes on JoanTheDietitian.com that you want? Two methods are described below.

Search using tags that I have chosen

Each post has “tags” which are key words like “gluten free” or “paleo” to help search engines find the content. Once you find my website, JoanTheDietitian.com, you can easily find recipes and articles by category using these same tags. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Look for the section “Themes” at the bottom of the web page.
  2. You will find a “tag cloud” with many words. The size of the word indicates how often it appears on my web site.
  3. Using your mouse, left-click on any tag.
  4. You will be taken a page which presents your desired content.
  5. Choose your favorites and share with your friends!
    • Search using any word you choose

      What if you are looking for something that may be on my site, but you don’t see the right word in the tag cloud? Use “Search”!

      1. Look for the section “Search” at the bottom of the the web page.
      2. Use your keyboard to type in the word you want and press the “Enter” key.
      3. Enjoy the posts and articles that are presented.
      4. Try it! For example, enter the word “quinoa”. (Don’t be surprised that it returns this page.)


Joan’s Chili

§ Ingredients

  • Three (3) 14.5 oz. cans flavored diced tomatoes.

  • Two (2) 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes.

  • Four (4) 14.5 oz. cans of beans, rinsed. Use a variety of types such as black, small red and kidney.

  • One (1) pound lean ground turkey or beef.

  • One (1) pound diced chicken breast.

  • 2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced or chopped.

  • One (1) medium onion or 4 – 6 shallots, chopped.

  • 2 – 4 carrots, chopped.

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder, modify to taste.

  • Olive oil or avocado oil – enough to cover bottom of large pot.

  • Optional: 3 – 4 celery stalks, chopped.

  • Optional: One (1) green pepper, chopped.

  • Optional: Mushrooms cut to desired size.

  • Optional: Bell peppers cut in small chunks.

§ Method

In a large pot cook onion and garlic with olive oil on low heat until soft. In a separate fry pan cook ground meat and diced chicken; drain and discard any fat. Place cooked meat and remainder of ingredients in the pot with the garlic and onions. Simmer for 1 – 2 hours on low-medium heat stirring periodically. Check veggies for desired level of crunchiness.

§ Notes from Joan

  • Serve alone or over a whole grain such as brown rice, quinoa or oat groats. Delicious over cooked spaghetti squash.

  • Serve cold over a bed of romaine for a healthy variant of a taco salad. Adorn with sliced avocado and ripe olives as a source of essential healthy fat.

  • Store leftovers in refrigerator or freezer. Reheat when ready to serve.

  • Modify recipe by choice of flavored diced tomatoes. I really like “Zesty Jalapeno”. Use low sodium variety if sodium is a concern.

  • Olive oil is an excellent source of essential healthy fat, and avocado oil is another healthy choice.

  • This flavorful chili is loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

  • Healthy attributes are enhanced by using a variety of vegetables that your family will eat.

  • This can be made without the meat. Just add more beans.



Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Bread

Source: Paleogrubs.com

§ Ingredients

  • One (1) cup cooked and mashed pumpkin (canned or fresh).

  • Three (3) eggs.

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest.

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil.

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

  • 3 tablespoons honey.

  • 1 12 cup almond flour or almond meal.

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder.

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa.

§ Procedure

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In one bowl combine the almond flour or meal with the baking powder. In a second bowl mix the remaining ingredients with a hand whisk. First mix the contents of the two bowls in a single bowl, and then separate the batter into two bowls mixing the cocoa into the second one. Line an 8.5 X 4 inch loaf pan with parchment. Alternately add spoonfuls of batter with and without the cocoa to the loaf pan achieving a marble pattern. Place in preheated oven and bake approximately 38 – 45 minutes or until done as indicated by a clean toothpick. Allow to cool before slicing.

§ Notes from Joan

  • I prefer to use almond meal which is very reasonable at Trader Joe’s and is also available at Wegman’s.

  • Bars are incredibly moist and satisfying. People would never guess that they are so healthy!



Banana Almond Meal Pancakes

Original Source: Mary at www.TheKitchenPaper.com

§ Ingredients

  • 112 cup almond meal or almond flour.

  • 12 tsp cinnamon.

  • One (1) ripe banana, mashed.

  • Two (2) eggs.

  • One (1) tablespoon honey.

  • 14 cup milk. (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk.)

  • Optional: 14 tsp salt. (I omit.)

§ Method

In a bowl, hand mix all ingredients. Pour batter to make approximately 2 – 3 inch size pancakes into medium heat non-stick or greased skillet or fry pan. (I use coconut oil to grease the pan).
Flip each pancake after 2 – 3 minutes of cooking or when spatula can be easily slipped under pancake. Cook an addition 2 minutes on second side or until inside is cooked through. Eat hot or cold. Stores well in refrigerator for a day or two but these won’t last since they are so good for snack or anytime of the day! I do not use any syrup or agave; delicious when eaten plain!

§ Notes from Joan

  • Gluten-free, dairy-free, lower sugar and lower carbs, healthy source of fat, some protein, decent fiber source. Much healthier than traditional pancake. Satisfying and filling!

  • I use almond meal which has a grittier texture than almond flour. I like the mouth feel, and it also has better fiber content. Trader Joe’s sells almond meal & Wegman’s sells almond flour/meal in their Nature’s Market section.



Salmon Burgers

§ Ingredients

  • Three 5 oz pouches of wild salmon, drained.

  • One (1) large egg.

  • 12 cup breadcrumbs (may be gluten-free).

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper.

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of dried dill.

  • Two (2) tablespoons of olive oil.

  • Optional: 1 – 2 teaspoons garlic powder.

§ Method

Drain pouches of salmon of excess water and place in large mixing bowl. Using a fork, break up salmon into small flake-like pieces. Add remaining ingredients (except olive oil) and mix well. Set aside. In a large non-stick frying pan and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set heat on stove top to medium and preheat the pan. Form salmon mixture into 4 – 6 patties. Place patties gently into fry pan and cover. Cook about 4 – 5 minutes until patties are sufficiently browned on the bottom. Flip patties with spatula and cover pan again. Cook about 3 – 4 minutes on second side until the second side is browned. Remove from pan and place on plate to cool. Once cooled eat with your favorite vegetable or place in refrigerator in a covered container.

§ Substitutions

  • One pound ground turkey or lean ground beef instead of salmon.

  • Dried parsley may be used instead of dried dill.

§ Notes from Joan

Salmon burgers are a good protein source and contain healthy fat. Eat burger with a side of cooked or raw fresh vegetables (carbohydrates and fiber) for a complete meal.



Gluten Free

A brief history

During the past fifteen years I have been a part of an amazing journey in the gluten-free food industry.  When my mother was diagnosed with celiac disease, my sister and I delved into the largely uncharted waters of the gluten-free diet.  What was available commercially was dry and unpalatable.  We were determined to develop delicious breads and desserts that were were every bit as desirable as what the people surrounding my mother could eat.  With me as the dietitian and my sister as the creative and business expert we successfully brought gluten-free products to market (including to customers such as Disney World).

Educating industry

Very few culinarians in the food industry were aware of the need for gluten-free food items nor how to prepare them safely in their commercial kitchens.  This includes not only manufacturing facilities but also food-prep kitchens in restaurants, hospitals, school cafeterias, etc.  It was my pleasure working as a consultant to spread the word concerning the need for delicious gluten-free foods.

Educating the consumer

Fast forward to the present day.  We have entire aisles filled with gluten-free foods.   Warning!  Gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy.  While you may need to avoid gluten for medical reasons, remember good balanced nutrition should always be your foundation.  Loading your grocery cart with with mounds of gluten-free breads, crackers, pasta, granola bars,chips, cereals, etc. cannot meet your nutritional needs.   Worse, a diet dense in these types of carbohydrates can put on excess weight, cause food cravings, raise triglycerides and elevate blood-sugar levels.  Remember, your vegetables, fruit, fish and unprocessed meats or other protein sources have always been both gluten free and essential to your diet.

What I promote

Macronutrient/micronutrient balancing is the foundation of a healthy diet.  For macronutrient balancing, this rhyme may be helpful:

“Protein, carbs (carbohydrates) and healthy fat at every single meal and snack!”

Look for individual posts on these topics!

Smiling in health,

Joan the Dietitian