Eat Like a Goddess in Athens

Greek-mealAthens,the birthplace of civilization, home to the Acropolis and Parthenon, and birthplace of Zeus, is one travel destination you’ll never forget. In Athens, you’ll experience ancient ruins and antiquities that will make memories for years to come. People come to visit Greece not only for its history, but also because it is a culinary standout. Greece is known for it’s wonderful produce, including luscious tomatoes, olives, olive oil, local fish, tangy, lemony Feta cheese, and ouzo, a licorice-flavored liquor similar to Sambucca. There are a vast array of traditional foods unique to this region that will show up on the menus of local tavernas. Think dishes such as Spanikopita (spinach pie), Mousakka, grilled whole fish, and Greek salad. Vegetables are a big part of the Greek Mediterranean diet and are consumed at every meal. Enjoy the wonderful preparation of vegetables in Athens as you experience the delicious cuisine. In addition to being an excellent source of potassium and Vitamins A and C, most vegetables are also rich in dietary fiber, which will not only help you stay regular (very important when you travel), but will help you stay trim as you’ll feel full sooner—and will stay satisfied longer. The Mediterranean diet is also known for other health benefits, which include a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, and a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Greeks are known for their longevity, especially on the island of Ikaria, where many inhabitants live well into their nineties and beyond. Stroll through the vibrant area around Ermou Street in Athens and view the busy tables at the outside cafes where diners are enjoying dishes laden with vegetables. Make sure to visit the Psyrri area, which was a traditional neighborhood in Athens, that over the last couple years has become a happening spot for art galleries, tavernas, ouzerias, and music. Here you’ll find restaurants that have a more modern approach to Greek cuisine. Definitely worth the cab or bus ride. While you’re visiting Athens, it’s good to be aware the traditional dishes you may come across in the tavernas.

The following list shows some of the “healthy” and “not-so healthy” menu items. Luckily, there are many healthy dishes served in Athens. If your plan is to stay trim as you travel, enjoy more of the dishes from the “healthy section.” Go easy on the “not-so-healthy section.” These dishes are higher in calories and fat, but are delicious, so share! Thankfully, many of the dishes served here tend to be on the healthy side! And just enjoy the friendly people, the culture, the food, the breathtaking scenery and illustrious historical ruins. You will be amazed!

Healthy selections

  • Greek salad
  • Horiatiki Salata- Tomato, cucumbers, onions, Feta, olive oil, vinegar and olives. No lettuce.
  •  Gigante beans (or Yigendes)—if you are vegetarian or vegan, a dish of these tasty high-protein beans can be your main course. Cooked in tomato sauce or olive oil and lemon.
  • Spanikopita-Spinach pie
  • Grilled fish and shellfish
  • Skordalia-potato and garlic dip.
  • Sadziki: Yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and onion dip. Great with Pita bread.
  • Melitzanasalata: Eggplant salad.
  • Taramasalata: Fish roe and yogurt spread. Delicious.
  • Fava beans: Dip or stew made from favas that can be eaten with a spoon or with bread.
  •  Patates to Fourno: Oven roasted potatoes.
  •  Briam: roast vegetables. Usually contains potatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. Similar to ratatouille. Great main course for vegetarians.
  •  Dolmades: Grape leaves stuffed with rice, onions and sometimes ground beef. Can be ordered without meat.
  • Mousaka: Baked dish similar to eggplant parmesan. Contains eggplant, potatoes, onions, ground beef, and a Bechamel topping.
  • Pastitsio: Think of it as a Greek Lasagna, but without cheese.. Layered noodles, meat, tomato sauce, and a Bechamel topping similar to Mousaka.

Not-So Healthy Menu Selections

  • Fried calamari and other fried fish/shellfish
  • Saganaki: fried cheese. Sometimes comes with tomato sauce.
  • Tiro Salata: Cheese salad.
  • Casseri: Soft cheese like mozzarella.
  • Keftedes: Deep-fried Meatballs.
  • Tiropita:  Cheese pie made with phyllo pastry
  • Patates Tiganites: Greek fried potatoes.

Restaurant Terminology 101: “Horis” means “without.” If you want a menu item sans an ingredient, just tell the waiter: hoe- ris (without) and the name of the item.

Healthy take-away tips:

  1. If having meat, fish, shellfish,or chicken, order it grilled.
  2. Make vegetables the focus of your meals. You will fill up faster.
  3. Start the meal with a Greek salad or a Horiatiki salad.
  4. If you have dessert, order one item and share it.
  5. Stay active. Enjoy Athens by foot. Spend your days walking around this beautiful and culturally-rich city. It’s the best way to visit historical sites, burn calories, and truly enjoy this Mediterranean gem.

Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN is the author of The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad and The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in private practice and writer based in Huntington, Long Island and NYC. Lisa specializes in travel nutrition, weight management, and diabetes for teens and adults. To find out more about Lisa, visit www.lisastollmanrd.com

Healthy Eating Abroad- When in Rome

rome-restaurantRome, where civilization and religion essentially began, is a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Enter a place where beauty is at every corner and one can spend hours admiring the craftsmanship put into a single building, a piece of artwork or a pasta dish that has been perfected over the years. The cuisine is something not to miss and as much a part of the experience of Rome as any other. When you experience a meal in Italy, you experience traditions that have been passed down for generations and embedded in every Italian. Meal time is family time and the typical Italian meal spans the course of 2-3 hours. There are also certain dining etiquettes one should be aware of beforehand. Check on dining etiquette in Rome. The traditional Italian meal consists of five courses. The first being an antipasti dish such as a charcuterie board or bruschetta. The main course is divided into 2 courses, the first called primo which is a pasta or rice dish, the second called secondo piatto is a meat or fish dish and contorni or side dishes may be ordered al-la cate. Dessert or dolce concludes the meal. So how does one not expand their waist line with a food culture characteristic of pizza, pasta, cheese and gelato? Here are a few tips that will allow you to enjoy the cuisine without overindulging.
1. For breakfast, order the cornetto semplice (similar to a croissant) without the fruit or cream filling. These cornettos are typically made with more sugar than croissants thus yielding a sweeter product to begin with. Biscotti are another lighter choice compared to other pastries as they typically do not contain butter. Also, opt for standing at the espresso bar to keep yourself on the go, to avoid additional charges that incur when sitting at a table and mingle with the locals.
2. Don’t feel pressured to order every course. Skip the antipasti and choose either a pasta or meat/fish course or chose to share one of each. Red sauce pastas are lighter than the cream based but there are just some dishes one must try while in Rome, Cacio e Pepe being one. Made with only butter, pecorino cheese, pepper, and pasta, the result is decadent and if done correctly the true test of Italian cuisine. Share this with your fellow diner.
3. Eat the bread with the meal not as a means to fill up before the meal arrives. Italians use the bread as an accompaniment to the meal, to scoop up the extra sauce but the bread is typically delivered to the table before the order is even placed. So you can cut an easy 200 calories by not eating 2 slices of bread before the meal.
4. Add in a hefty serving of vegetables. Artichokes and tomatoes in Rome are delicious! Order a salad and choose vegetable side dishes to accompany the main course. Or have them as your meal. For pizza and pasta, choose vegetarian.
5. Skip the dessert at lunch and dinner but enjoy single serving of gelato during the day when you are more active. Gelato is often enjoyed on-the-go by Italians. So have your sweet treat mid-day as you are walking around the city.
6. Engage in the Italian approach to mealtime. Italians eat leisurely, enjoying both the food and company. As a result they eat more slowly and allow themselves to experience the feeling of satiety before they over eat. It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to actually register that we are full. So, when you eat slowly, you will likely eat less.
And above all else, enjoy the Italian cuisine as it is not one to miss. Just keep portion sizes and moderation in mind. Buon appetito!
Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN. CDE, CDN is a nationally-renowned teen and adult weight management expert with offices in Huntington, NY and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Lisa is the author of The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy (Nirvana Press 2012), the premier guide on healthy eating and weight management for teens. She loves to share her enthusiasm of eating healthy, traveling and staying fit. To find out more about Lisa, visit her website.

Vegetarian or Vegan: What’s the Diff?

Chicken Kebabs and Rice With increasing scientific studies promoting the health benefits of consuming plant-based foods, it’s no wonder vegetarian and vegan diets have surged as popular ways to eat. Many people choose to follow either diet for a variety of reasons. Animal rights, protecting the planet, religious beliefs, and improved health are just a few. Followed correctly, each can offer substantial health benefits such as lowering the risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many types of cancer. However, if animal products are not substituted appropriately, the risk for developing deficiencies in certain nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals is increased. Plant-based eating can improve your health–just make sure that your meals are well-planned, so you consume the nutrients your body needs.

If you’re interested in following either diet you should be fond of vegetables, whole grains and non-meat alternatives such as tofu, nuts, and beans as these will all serve as the basis for many of your meals. It is essential you take the time to educate yourself on how to properly follow these diets. If well-thought out and well-planned, nutrition deficiencies can be avoided, health benefits gained and you will be fit and fueled. To guarantee you follow a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, you should meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to receive expert nutritional guidance.

Let’s look at these two styles of eating and see how they differ:

Vegetarian Diets

*Vegetarian diets can be sub-divided into a few different categories:
True vegetarians (also known as lacto-ovo vegetarians) avoid all meat, fish and poultry but do consume eggs and dairy products.

* Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs, meat, fish and poultry, and ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but avoid dairy, meat, fish and poultry.

*Similarly, “flexitarian” and “semi-vegetarian,” which are basically the same, describe a diet that consists largely of vegetarian items with the occasional meat, fish or poultry source thrown into the mix.

*Vegetarians who also eat fish are known as pescatarians.

True vegetarians typically obtain protein from dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese), eggs and soy products. Tempeh, a texturized protein made from soybeans, brown rice, millet and barley, and seitan, made from wheat gluten (a protein found in wheat), are two meat alternatives many vegetarians also include in their diet. With a wide variety of protein sources available, the vegetarian diet is easy to follow with little risk for deficiency.

Vegan Diets

Compared to the vegetarian diet, following a vegan diet requires more planning to ensure that adequate protein, vitamins and minerals are consumed. Vegans omit all foods from animal sources. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and butter are avoided. Many vegans also avoid honey. With fewer options for protein, plant-based proteins, such as soy products (tofu and soy milk), protein-fortified almond milk, tempeh, beans, nuts, legumes, seitan, vegetables and whole grains become the staples at meals.

Those who want to follow a vegan diet need to make sure that they get sufficient nutrients, such as protein and calcium. To ensure adequate protein is consumed, a variety of these plant-protein foods mentioned above should be consumed regularly at meals. As stated before, you may want to meet with a RDN to ensure that the diet is well-planned. Because vitamin B-12 is found only in animal products, vegans need to supplement their diet with this vitamin.  Vegans may seek out fortified food sources, such as soy milk fortified with vitamin B-12, to obtain this vitamin or simply take in the form of a pill supplement. Since dairy products are not consumed, calcium can also become an issue so appropriate food alternatives, such as calcium-fortified tofu, soy or almond milk and dark green leafy vegetables, need to be included in the diet daily. If nutritional needs for calcium can’t be obtained through food alone, a calcium supplement should be taken. Vegans also need to pay special attention to getting enough vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine. In order to obtain the health benefits of either a vegetarian or vegan diet, either diet needs to be followed properly.

Differences between Vegetarian and Vegan Diets 

Vegetarian
Foods included: Milk, cheese, butter, eggs, grains, tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables,

Foods avoided: Meat, fish, chicken

Vegan
Foods included: Tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, beans, whole grain breads and cereals, fortified-soy and almond milk, fruits and vegetables.
Foods avoided: Milk, cheese, butter, meat, fish. chicken, eggs, dairy (some vegans also avoid honey)
Nutrients which may be lacking:
Vegetarians should be able to easily meet all of their nutrient needs if they make healthy food choices.
Supplements required: Vegans need to take a vitamin B12 supplement. If food sources of vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc and iodine don’t meet nutritional needs, a supplement may be needed.
Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN. CDE, CDN is a nationally-renowned teen and adult weight management expert with offices in Huntington, NY and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Lisa is the author of The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy (Nirvana Press 2012), the premier guide on healthy eating and weight management for teens. To find out more about Lisa, visit her website.

Stay Trim and Eat Healthy in China

china_food

To truly immerse yourself in a culture, especially one that is far removed from your ow,n is the true definition of traveling. Whether you travel to the exhilarating Machu Pichu or soak up the rays in Turks & Caicos, there’s one factor in vacation destinations that can’t be ignored: the food. Depending on one’s taste buds and food preferences, that can dictate travel excursions. No matter how much you factor in food, China should definitely be at the top of your list of travel destinations!

You should head to China with a few ideas of where you want to go and how to best enjoy the food. Although making healthy food choices when traveling is probably not on your radar, you don’t want to end up feeling sick  when you are away. You want to feel GREAT so you can enjoy your experience. So let’s review Chinese cuisine!

Chinese soup

Here are some smart tips for healthy eating in China:
1. Limit fried foods.
2. Choose more vegetable dishes.
3. Go easy on refined carbohydrates: rice, noodles, dumplings, and sticky buns
4. Eat with chopsticks. Not only will it slow down intake, but locals will be more likely to give you menu and meal suggestions when they see you immersing in the culture.
5. Try a bit of everything, but don’t eat everything. Having a couple bites can help limit overindulging while getting the exposure to different flavors.
6. Cold beverages are deemed harmful to digestion of hot foods, so hot tea or hot water are served with meals. Tea is believed to help with the digestion of greasy foods.
7. Food is often prepared and served on small plates, “family style.” Be ready for direct pick-up and communal eating.

China-meal

While China can be divided into 57 cuisine regions, below are four of the more popular regions:
Szechuan (Sichuan): known for spicy, hot flavor; uses a great mixture of poultry, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, tofu in combination with pepper and chili; fast frying is most commonly used method
Cantonese: characterized by tender, slightly sweet taste; sauces are often light and mellow, including hoisin, oyster, plum and sweet and sour sauce; often see spring onions, sugar, salt, rice wine, corn starch, vinegar and sesame oil used; garlic can be heavily used; prefer stewing, sautéing or braising food, which helps to preserve the flavor
Hunan: “land of fish and rice”; fresh vegetables cooked “al dente”; favors steaming, stir frying, smoking and sautéing; special seasonings include soy sauce, tea seed oil, Chinese red pepper, fennel and cassia bark and spicy oil
Jiangsu: moderate saltiness and sweetness; places emphasis on the making of soups; abundant in freshwater fish and seafood from the Yangtze River and Yellow Sea

More to know about Chinese meals:
Desserts are less common, with sweet foods introduced during meal. For example, basi fruit and sizzling sugar-syrup coated fruits are eaten with other savory foods.
If dessert is served at the end of the meal, often times it is fresh fruit.
Soup is often served at the end of the meal to satiate appetite.

For any of you that have traveled to China, what other tips can you share? It’s hard to give specific “restaurant recommendations” as a lot of the great food is on the street kiosks and depending on what flavors you’re looking to try! Remember, when traveling, go in with an open mind and have fun! What regional cuisines are “must eats” for you?

Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN is the author of the new e-book The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and the widely-acclaimed book The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy (Nirvana Press 2012). Lisa is a nutrition specialist in travel nutrition, weight management and diabetes for teens and adults. She is in private practice with offices in Huntington, NY and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Contact Lisa at eatwellrd@yahoo.com or for more info: www.lisastollmanrd.com. This blog was written by my nutrition blogger intern and world traveler Nikki Nies.