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Food Day Aims to Inspire Americans to “Eat Real”

Written on October 27, 2011 at 11:34 am , by

The Eat In table was set with harvest colors.

On Monday, some of America’s greatest chefs, nutrition researchers and food minds gathered in New York City’s Times Square for an “Eat In” to mark the first-ever Food Day. The Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) created the nationwide grassroots movement to show that it’s possible to eat a healthful, sustainable diet while enjoying delicious food.

We spied notables including Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me) and Mario Batali (who jetted over to Times Square after taping an episode of The Chew) enjoying a meal full of fall flavors, which was whipped up by chef and dietitian Ellie Krieger.

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., the executive director of the CSPI, says that Food Day was created to energize the growing food movement and will now become an annual event. “The basic message is that we need to clean up our diets. You don’t need an organization or a Ph.D. Take action by adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet today. If you don’t care about your own health, no one is going to,” Jacobson told us.

Participants in Food Day have six overarching goals:

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk food marketing to kids
  6. Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

About 2,000 events took place across the country earlier this week at schools, grocery stores, restaurants and more. If you’re interested in continuing the celebration in your own home, you can find 28 delicious, whole food-based recipes by 10 top chefs (Mario Batali! Emeril Lagasse! Mark Bittman!) in this free Food Day downloadable cookbook.

Or click below for one of the tasty recipes featured in the cookbook that will win over even the most diehard fried food fans.

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Celebrate National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day (The Vegan Way!)

Written on October 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm , by

Mmm...A taste of fall! (Photo by Patrick M. Gookin, II)

Sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg are on a mission to prove that vegan eating doesn’t have to be about deprivation. They were both environmental science majors in college and decided to cut out all animal products form their diets about 12 years ago. At that time, “there weren’t many vegan products available, so we started to cook everything for ourselves. It’s how we could find the best options,” Engel says.

They both dropped 20 pounds and found that they slept better and naturally lowered their cholesterol while being vegan. To spread the word about lessons they learned experimenting in the kitchen, Engel and Goldberg began teaching live and online cooking classes, eventually amassing a “treasure trove of recipes,” according to Engel.

The pair’s new cookbook, Spork-Fed (available now and including a foreward by fellow sisters, actresses Emily and Zooey Deschanel!), aims to educate and empower readers to create meals free of meat, eggs and dairy that will satisfy all appetites. “Our favorite dishes tend to be comfort foods, like pot pie, biscuits and gravy and collard greens, because they appeal to both vegans and non-vegans,” Goldberg says.

With that in mind, we asked the Spork-Fed sisters to share a recipe for one of their go-to fall desserts. It’s perfect timing, as today marks National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day!

Click below for a how-to for this sweet treat.

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A Must-Have Eating Guide and Recipe From Chef and TV Host Alton Brown

Written on October 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm , by

Alton Brown suggests hitting the farm stand for fresh, seasonal food. (Photo courtesy of Welch's)

It’s harvest time across the country, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by eating local, seasonal foods. Of course you can stop by your farmers’ market to pick up fresh items to prepare at home, but a growing number of restaurants are also offering seasonal fare.

“Fall is really the simplest cooking time,” says Alton Brown, host of Iron Chef America, Next Iron Chef (season four debuts October 30!) and Good Eats. “You don’t have to do much to the produce at this time of year because it’s when both nutrients and flavor are at their highest levels.”

To make it easier to enjoy the fall flavors he loves so much, Brown teamed up with Welch’s and Zagat for their “Taste the Harvest Guide.” (To download a free copy, click here.) It lists and reviews 196 farm-to-table restaurants in 16 cities across the U.S., and also includes a few healthy recipes, profiles of farmers and tips from dietitians, including Welch’s own health and nutrition manager Casey Lewis, R.D.

“The Guide is designed to help people get excited about eating produce. A diet full of colorful produce is also rich in healthy vitamins, minerals and nutrients,” Lewis says.

But one can’t live on restaurant food alone. When you decide to hit your local market and buy items for meals at home, consider grabbing Brown’s current picks: chard, pumpkin and squash. He says that since they taste so great right now, a simple treatment like roasting works best.

But what to serve with alongside all of this delicious produce? Brown says that his chickpea falafel is one recipe everyone should know since it’s simple to make at home. Bonus: You can control the baking method and reduce the fat from a traditional falafel recipe by baking instead of frying!

For Brown’s essential falafel recipe, straight from his new cookbook Good Eats 3: The Later Years, Read more

Kelsey Nixon’s Healthy Cooking Essentials

Written on October 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm , by

Kelsey's positive attitude makes home cooking seem fun and her tips make it simple! (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Nixon)

We love Cooking Channel’s Kelsey Nixon for her fun, you-can-do-this approach to cooking with fresh ingredients. We caught up with the The Next Food Network Star finalist to chat about her show (Kelsey’s Essentials is now in it’s second season, airing Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. EST!), the kitchen equipment she can’t live without and to find out how she stays healthy and fit.

Tell us about Kelsey’s Essentials.

Every episode focuses on an essential tool, tip or technique that I think every home cook should know, taking them one step beyond the basics in a fun way. The shows are also seasonal—I believe that if you cook with ingredients that are in season, it’s going to taste better and be more affordable.

What are your essential tools for healthy cooking?

High-quality sheet trays for roasting—they make it easy to caramelize vegetables, which brings out their natural sugars. I’d also suggest tongs, a cast iron skillet for making an omelet or searing fish, a sturdy pan and a good sharp knife. A non-stick skillet is also a great tool because the chance of sticking is low and it doesn’t require as much fat to brown chicken or fish, so you can use less oil or fat.

How can a kitchen newbie get started cooking more healthfully?

Take a trip to the farmers’ market once a week, and challenge yourself to buy one vegetable or fruit that’s in season. Use that ingredient to drive dinner ideas for the week.

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We’re Giving Away a Copy of the SparkPeople Cookbook!

Written on October 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm , by

Spark People Cookbook

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Update 10/17/11: We have a winner! Congrats to Elizabeth from Walnut Creek, California! Thanks to everyone who entered!


In the October issue of FITNESS, there’s a delicious, slimmed-down version of French Onion Soup that clocks in at just 266 calories per serving. In case you missed it, we’re defriending you. you can still get your hands on the recipe created by Meg Galvin, World Master Chef and Healthy Cooking Expert at SparkPeople.com, in the brand-new book, The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. SparkRecipes.com Editor Stepfanie Romie worked with Meg and the rest of the Spark team to pull together a thick collection of light-and-healthy recipes, like:

  • Skinny Eggs Florentine
  • Lifesaving Lentil Soup
  • Bluegrass Jambalaya
  • Spicy Turkey Mini Meatloaves
  • Key Lime Tartlets
  • And more!

That’s all good news, right? Now for the great news: We’re giving away one of the cookbooks to a lucky reader this weekend! All you have to do is click here to answer a quick question and enter your contact info. We won’t use your info for anything else and we’ll announce on Monday morning who the lucky cookbook recipient is!

Good luck!

Breathe New Life Into Home-Cooked Dinners

Written on October 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm , by

Written by Alyssa Belanger, editorial intern

The AHA wants to help you avoid kitchen mishaps. (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Truth: How often do you really cook in your kitchen?

About 17 percent of American children ate meals outside of their home in 1970, but today at least half of all U.S. food expenditures are accounted for in away-from-home eating, the American Heart Association reports. While it is possible to eat out and lose weight, it’s much easier to control the ingredients and cooking methods when you whip up a dish in your own home.

That’s why the AHA launched Simple Cooking with Heart, which aims to “equip American families with basic culinary skills along with nutrition knowledge so they can know how to cook and eat at home,” says American Heart Association spokeswoman Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D.

The program, funded by the Walmart Foundation, offers a number of resources on their website to inspire nutritious and fun home-cooked meals. You can find video cooking demonstrations, recipes, tips and a downloadable “Host Kit” with everything you need to host a dinner party (think invitation templates, party games and shopping lists).

One of the ideas we’re planning to try first? “Traveling” with friends to the Far East through a heart-healthy meal of Asian Cole Slaw and Asian-Style Noodles. Paper lanterns, chop sticks and other fun and inexpensive items from a party store can make a simple meal festive!

This veggie-filled side comes together in minutes. (Photo courtesy of the AHA)

Asian Cole Slaw Recipe

Serves 6


  • 1 12-ounce bag shredded cabbage (green or purple)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded, sliced in to thin sticks
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 5 medium green onions, sliced
  • 12 leaves washed fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil


  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic minced from jar or 1 clove minced
  • 3 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoons white sugar, granulated
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine all vegetables in a bowl, toss.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well.
  3. Pour over vegetable mixture and toss to coat.

Nutrition facts per serving: 42 calories, 1 g fat

For more recipe ideas, cooking tips and heart health facts visit the American Heart Association website.

A Low-Cal Recipe to Celebrate National Taco Day

Written on October 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm , by

Good for your heart and your taste buds! (Photo courtesy of Los Felz)

Yes, you read that right. Today is National Taco Day! To celebrate, we squeezed our way into the kitchen at Los Feliz in New York City to get a skinny version of one of our favorite party foods. Try this yummy fish taco recipe Chef Julieta Ballesteros shared with us for all the taste and half the calories.  Plus, check out some healthy ingredient substitutes to use below for any recipe to make your taco healthier.

Ingredient Swaps for a Healthier Taco:

  • Try corn tortillas, they are lighter than flour shells.
  • Adding fish in tacos instead of beef will give you a great source of protein while being low in fat.
  • Spices like adobo give flavor to your food without packing on extra calories.
  • Beans are a great source of minerals and vitamins.
  • Chiles can suppress your appetite, making you feel fuller faster.

Read on for Chef Ballesteros recipe for fish tacos.

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What’s For Dinner: The Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge

Written on September 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm , by

Looking for a quick spin on chicken to shake up a weeknight meal? Try Parmesan Crusted Chicken, the winning recipe of the first Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge, a series of cooking challenges to find the best mayo-enhanced chicken dish, hosted by celeb actor and dad Mark Consuelos (hubby to Kelly Ripa), Top Chef Masters’ chef Tim Love and lifestyle expert Sissy Biggers. We caught the showdown live to get a taste of the competition—and the chicken!

Chef Tim Love, actor Mark Consuelos and lifestyle expert Sissy Biggers each cooked up a chicken recipe. (Photo courtesy of Hellmann's)

As it turns out, mayo can be more than just a deli meat-topper or potato salad mix-in. Hellman’s pros suggest using light mayo in a recipe to keep chicken moist. Since it’s seasoned, you don’t have to add salt or pepper to the dish. And good news for the calorie counters: You don’t need to use a ton of it to get the flavor you’re after. The proof is in the taste, as all three recipes in the audience-judged competition, Parmesan, Chipotle Lime and BBQ Cheddar, were delicious.

Post-taste test, we caught up with Mark, who cooked the winning dish (recipe below!), to find out how he and Kelly stay fit and get dinner on the table for their busy family.

Do you and Kelly share the cooking duties at home?

Kelly does most of the cooking, but I do the grilling. Even when I do, she’s making five or six side dishes—different kinds of salads. The kids can be picky, but they love steak, burgers, halibut (we try to get them to eat a lot of fish) and of course, chicken. We always have plenty of vegetables to balance it out.

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Michelle Obama-Approved Recipe: Porcupine Sliders

Written on September 16, 2011 at 10:11 am , by

Add these sliders to your next tailgating menu! (Photo courtesy of Jennie-O)

Outdoor grilling season is pretty much over (did anyone else need a jacket this morning?) but burger season can continue all year long! Today, we’re enjoying a guilt-free slider recipe packed with fall flavors that won best of show in First Lady Michelle Obama’s inaugural Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge.

Students and faculty from South Education Center Alternative in Richfield, Minnesota, and Chef Todd Bolton of Parasole Restaurant Holdings teamed up to create these delicious and kid-friendly sandwiches. Diners can now take a bite of these sliders, whose name comes from the “prickly” grains of rice in the burger mix, at the school and at Parasole’s Good Earth restaurants. And now you can try them at home by following this recipe!

Porcupine Sliders (Serves 6)

For burgers:

  • 1/2 cup medium grain brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 small stalk of celery, minced
  • 16 ounces Jennie-O lean ground turkey (93/7 works best)
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, rough chopped
  • 3/4 cup spinach leaves (washed, drained, stems removed, chopped)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worscestershire sauce
  • 1 scant pinch of crushed red pepper

For sandwiches:

  • 12 small multigrain or whole grain rolls
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Condiments of choice
  1. Follow package instructions to cook brown rice. Transfer cooked rice to a plate and let cool completely in refrigerator. (This can be done up to a full day ahead.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a skillet, sauté onions, celery and garlic in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator and cool completely.
  4. In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients including cooked rice and cooked onion mixture and mix well.
  5. Portion into 2½-ounce patties—the diameter of buns—onto a parchment lined baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. (Time will vary depending on oven. Use a thermometer to check starting at 12 minutes.) Avoid overcooking, as lean turkey will dry out if cooked too long.
  6. Serve on mini whole grain rolls with optional lettuce, tomato, red onion and condiments.

Learn more about the program at RecipesforKidsChallenge.com and discover additional good-for-you turkey recipes at SwitchtoTurkey.com.

More from FITNESS:

Kick Off Fall with Apple Empanadas

Written on September 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm , by

Written by Theresa K. Brady, editorial intern

Oils aren't off limits in a healthy diet! (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Oils aren't off limits in a healthy diet! (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Mazola Corn Oil and WomenHeart, The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, have teamed up to promote healthier lifestyles by replacing commonly used cooking oils with corn oil. And who better to be the face of this new campaign than charismatic personal trainer and chef Herb Mesa, a former finalist on The Next Food Network Star? His enthusiasm and excitement about good food paired with his motivation to live a healthier lifestyle allows him to develop simple and healthy recipes that anyone can enjoy.

At a preview event hosted by Mazola and WomenHeart, Mesa demonstrated how he cooks delicious and healthy cuisine while sticking to his Caribbean roots.

Here are his top three tips:

  • Sear and bake instead of frying. When making food that is typically fried in oil, opt to sear both sides and bake it in the oven to finish cooking, Mesa explained. You’ll use a lot less oil and avoid unnecessary fat grams.
  • Use a brush to coat the pan with oil. Certain recipes tell you to coat the bottom of a pan with two tablespoons of oil when you really could have just used half of one. Mesa suggests spreading oil on a pan with a basting brush to control how much you’re using.
  • Choose corn oil. Corn oil is a great oil option for cooking. According to Mazola, it contains plant sterols that can help lower your cholesterol and prevent heart disease. And Mesa believes that corn oil gives dishes a more buttery texture and better flavor than olive or canola oil.

After our educational session, Mesa hit the kitchen to show off his skills! Our favorite dish? The apple empanadas, which are a perfect treat as cooler weather and apple-picking season approaches. You can even freeze and reheat them in a 400 degree oven for a 90-calorie snack anytime.

Apple Empanadas

  • 1 ounce spiced rum
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter
  • 2 packages of empanada discs
  • ¼ cup Mazola Corn Oil
  1. In a large skillet, cook apples, cinnamon and rum. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  2. Place disc on oiled cookie sheet. Place half of apple mixture on half of the pastry round, leaving a one-inch border. Fold the other half of this pastry over filling, pressing edges to seal. Brush empanada with corn oil. Repeat with remaining crust at other end of cookie sheet.
  3. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, until pastry is golden and filling is hot.

More from FITNESS: Make your own 100-calorie (or fewer) snack packs at home with these nutritious and simple recipes.