You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.


When my children were children pasta was frequently on our dinner menu because it was one of the few meals everyone ate almost regardless of the sauce.  Though the kids are gone my love of pasta has not dissipated.  Therefore I was particularly struck by the results of a dried pasta taste test as described in the article, “The Last Noodle Standing” (New York Magazine, May 4). Three of the four panelists are chefs: Marco Conora of Insieme, Hearth, and Terroir; Mark Ladner of Del Posto; and Cesare Casella of Salumeria Rosi; the fourth, the actor, Steve Schirripa, played Uncle Junior’s manservant, Bobby Baccalieri on The Soprano’s.  Try to ignore the fact that no women were included and read on.

Eight brands of dried spaghetti were blind-tasted.  They were boiled in four batches in salted water, and served two ways: plain (to ascertain its wheaty essence) and with butter and Parmesan (because no one eats pasta plain).  The rating was on a 30 point scale, giving 10 each for flavor, texture, and how well the spaghetti conveyed the butter and Parmesan, with four judges that made a possible perfect score of 120 points. 

The results for seven of the eight are – Ta-dah:


BRAND               COMMENTS                                PRICE                        SCORE

Barilla           America’s most popular brand        $1.79 a pound                   53

SeTaro          touted by many NY chefs                  $6.95 for 35 ounces        62


Cavalieri     thought to be a “cheap” brand          $8.79 for 17.6 ounces     67


Classica      high points for sauce absorption     $8.00 for 17.6 ounces      71

Martelli     texture good, flavor not so much     $8.00 for 17.6 ounces        83

Rustichella    lost by one point, less flavor       $6.50 for 17.6 ounces         93

Trader Joe’s  both great aroma and performer     99 cents a pound           94

Who can argue with the experts – pasta is the ideal recessionary meal.  I have conducted my own non-blind tasting and have switched from Rustichella to Trader Joe’s.  For $1.29 a pound I would recommend trying The Trader Joe’s organic pasta, well worth the extra 30 cents.  Bon Appetit.


Debbie Jones-Steele

Please Visit: Healthworks Fitness

(Images: from Flikr, FotoRita [Allstar maniac]



Athletes commonly have a love-hate relationship with nuts. They love them, but try to stay away from them. “I don’t dare keep a jar of cashews in my house. I’d end up eating them all and gaining weight,” complained one rower.  Although she knows nuts are healthful and good for her, the over-ruling perception is nuts are “sooooo fattening.”

While nuts are indeed a calorie-dense food, the good news is nut-eaters are not fatter than people who avoid nuts (1). That’s because nuts are satiating; that is, they stay with you and keep you feeling “fed.” A woman-size handful of nuts (150 to 200 calories) for an afternoon snack often ends up being lower in calories than the 100-calorie pack of crackers that leads to another and yet another 100-calorie pack because you are still hungry. Snacks like crackers, pretzels and rice cakes fail to keep you satiated because they lack fiber, protein, and fat -and that’s what nuts have to offer.

A study with overweight teens highlights this point. The students were part of “The Family Lifestyle and Over-weight Prevention Program” in Houston, TX (2). The teens were given a healthy after school snack to help improve the quality of their diet: nuts and peanut butter along with fruits and vegetables (such as apple slices with peanut butter, baby carrots dipped in peanut butter, trail mix with peanuts and dried fruits). These snacks replaced the former popular choices of chips and snack cakes. The kids lost weight and kept it off-and equally important, they liked the snacks. There’s no denying a plain apple may seem “boring” and unpopular because it is not substantial enough to satisfy afternoon hunger. But add some peanut butter, and that apple becomes a welcomed treat!

When the afternoon munchies strike, I invite you to “go nuts” (in moderation) and observe the benefits of eating a handful of nuts. You may well discover you are less hungry for a longer period of time. While a few rice cakes may fill you for half an hour, a few nuts might last for 2.5 hours (3).

If you are afraid the “handful” will turn into a “jarful”, remember the best way to take the power away from a “trouble food” is to eat it more often. That is, if you end up overeating nuts (or any food, for that matter), you may be thinking “I just blew my diet by eating some almonds, so I might as well eat the whole jar to get rid of them. Then, I can get back on my diet.” Or, if you are at a social event and end up eating too many peanuts, you might be thinking “This is my last chance to eat peanuts before I go back on my diet. I’d better eat them all now because I shouldn’t eat them ever again.”

The solution to over-eating nuts is to change your relationship with them and acknowledge you like nuts: “I enjoy nuts so much, I’m going to eat them more often-at every meal and snack!” That way, you eliminate your fear of being denied of this favorite food. You won’t have to eat the whole jar, because another jar will be waiting in the pantry. While this might sound scary to overeaters, the reality is, after three days of eating nuts at every meal and snack, you likely will be content to cut back to enjoying nuts once or twice a day (or week) and no longer will they have any power over you.

Which nuts are best?

     OK, so now that I have convinced you to include nuts in your sports snacks (and meals), you might be wondering “What is the best kind of nut to eat?” That is like asking, “What is the best fruit to choose?” The answer is, each type of nut offers it’s own special health benefits. Almonds have a little more fiber than cashews; walnuts have a little more polyunsaturated fat than hazelnuts; peanuts have a little more vitamin E than walnuts-but no one nut is distinctly superior to another one. So, rather than get caught up in trying to choose the “best” nut, simply buy a variety of nuts for a variety of nutrients, flavors, and health-protective attributes. Enjoy- * slivered almonds on your morning cereal * a peanut butter and banana sandwich at lunch (Now doesn’t that sound more substantial than yet-another turkey sandwich?  Don’t panic about the calories! Rather, notice how peanut butter will keep you feeling fed, so you don’t end up eating abundant calories of sweets later in the afternoon.) * trail mix with cashews and dried fruit in the afternoon * walnuts in your dinner salad.

What’s so healthy about nuts for athletes?

    Nuts offer far more than just calories. They are filled with hard-to-get nutrients that can easily get processed out of refined foods. By the end of the day, nut eaters tend to have a diet with overall higher nutrient quality (4). Nuts offer magnesium, niacin, vitamin E, copper, and manganese, as well as other phytochemicals that are health protective, like resveratrol (reduces heart disease). All this means, nuts have a powerful impact on your health.

    Nuts protect against the diseases of aging. That is, people who eat nuts or peanut butter five or more times a week reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes by more than 20% (1). That’s impressive! Incorporating some nuts along with your pretzel- or rice cake snack offers both health and weight-management advantages.

     If you are enjoying nuts as a recovery food after a hard workout, be sure to eat some carbs along with the nuts. While the protein and (healthful) fat in nuts abates hunger and helps build muscles, only carbs (re)fuel your muscles. Some carb-protein nut combinations include: peanut butter + banana; nuts + dried fruit; almonds + (packet of instant) oatmeal.

   Nuts offer only a little protein-for example, about 8 grams in two tablespoons peanut butter (the amount in a typical sandwich). This is not much, considering the protein needs of most active women are 60 to 90 grams, and active men may need 80 to 120 grams. Hence, vegetarian athletes need to really eat a lot of nuts and peanut butter if this is their main source of protein!

    Easier yet, boost your protein intake by adding this childhood memory back into your daily sports diet: a glass of milk along with the peanut butter sandwich! In general, enjoy nuts, in moderate portions, as an integral part of your meals and snacks.

Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes in her practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and food guides for new runners, marathoners and cyclists are available via See also

(Images: from Flikr, A.Ddiction)


178 Thorndike Street

Brookline, Ma.


“All Sorrows are less with bread”

The single clue that alerts a passerby to the wonders of Clear Flour is the aroma that wafts from its premises.  Only someone suffering from olfactory dysfunction could just walk on by.  This is not just a storefront; all goods are made from scratch and baked on location.  If your timing is right you can purchase items that are still warm from the oven.  This situation no longer poses a dilemma for me as I don’t even pretend to resist temptation but succumb to the sheer joy and luxury of immediate gratification.  Calories be damned!!!!

The tiny retail space is a riot of authentic breads of Italy and France.  All are made from basic ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast, no dough conditioners, preservatives, or improvers of any kind are added.  All breads are made the “old fashioned” way, scratch mixed and hand shaped.  Clear Flour is a hard place to just dash in and out of, allow time to carefully peruse the inventory.  Be sure to pick up a bread availability chart; it is helpful to know the baking schedule.

In addition to their vast array of breads, rolls, and pizza dough they regularly carry scones, morning buns (with nuts and without), and croissants.  Weekends are full of surprises such as chocolate monkey bread (which warm is well worth the extra time at the gym).  I still haven’t mentioned the cookies, cakes, and tarts.  I think you will just have to go in and check them out for yourself or check out their website .  Hours are Mon-Fri 8 AM-8PM, Sa-Su 9 AM-7 PM (expect lines on weekends).

Debbie Jones-Steele 

Please Visit: Healthworks Fitness


To be considered 100% whole grain, the first two grains in the ingredients list must say “whole”. The best cereals are 100% whole grain, contain at least 3 grams of fiber for every 100 calories, have no more than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving, and are free of aspartime. The Center for Science in the Public Interest list the following as examples:

Kellogg’s All Bran, Original

Kellogg’s All Bran, Complete Wheat Flakes

Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus (Pumpkin Raisin Crunch or Raisin Bran) 

Post Bran Flakes

Natures’ Path Organic Heritage Bites

Nature’s Path Organic Multigrain Oatbran

Uncle Sam (Original or with Real Mixed Berries)

Weetabix Organic Crispy Flakes

Post (or any brand) Original Shredded Wheat

Arrowhead Mills Puffed Wheat

General Mills Wheaties

Health Valley Organic Blue Corn flakes

Cascadian Farm Organic Purely O’s

Barbara’s Bakery Organic Crispy Wheats

General Mills Cheerios, MultiGrain

Mother’s Toasted Oat Bran

Health Valley Granola

Kashi Organic (Autumn Wheat or Cinnamon Harvest)

Bear Naked Granola, Fit

Please Visit:  Healthworks Fitness

(Images: from Flikr, Dalboz17)


This being my 25th year in the fitness industry; I thought I’d share some of the most common questions and misconceptions that I hear repeated year after year.

I don’t want to bulk up.

With strength training, microscopic fibers in the muscle  become more dense as they become stronger. This generally changes the shape in that the muscle becomes more “cut” and defined as the increases in metabolism cause you to lose body fat. Remember: Your metabolism stays elevated longer after a good bout of strength training than it does after cardio!

I just want a routine that I can do on my own.

You do not want to repeat the same exercises every time you work out. Your heart and skeletal muscles stop learning; you stop progressing. You do want a routine when it comes to making the time for exercise. For example: you want to know that Tuesdays and Thursdays you will go to the gym and do a strength workout (with as much variety as possible) – and that Monday and Friday you will go for a walk, or use exercise equipment at home or at the gym. Pre-schedule 3 times/week for cardio – or smaller bouts daily (twice/week for strength).

I’m going to do the Zone diet to jump start my weight loss.

Any diet that restricts certain food groups are never recommended (except under doctor supervision and with specific health concerns.) The only reason anyone ever has “success” with any diet is because they are restricting overall calories and/or because they are paying more attention to what they are eating in general. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us know how to eat right and that we need to exercise – we just prefer the notion of a quick fix or magic bullet. We are so sure that if we just skip a meal; we can “save” some calories for later. It doesn’t work, does it? [SEE “DIET” BOX]

Am I getting enough cardio to lose weight?

If you find you are not losing weight with your current regimen; try this: assess what your baseline is/has been for amount and intensity of the cardio you have been doing – and then find a way to take it up a notch. If you are just starting out, find activities that are manageable but still feel like some work. You may have to do shorter bouts until you build up strength. If you have been working out for a while – choose a different machine or activity; work at a higher intensity for at least some of the workout, and/or increase frequency.

I’m active in my daily activities – do I really need to do regular cardio and strength, too?

That is like asking, “I put gas in my car and drive it daily; do I really need to do maintenance on it?” Yes, your heart and skeletal muscles need to work to stay functional. Do yourself a huge favor and do as much as you can now. It only gets harder as you age. As mentioned earlier in this article; your body needs to keep learning – teach it new activities, increase the time or intensity or sessions per week.

And my all time favorite!! I know I just need to eat fewer carbs!

Carbs are not the enemy. I can debunk any claim you send me. Excess calories are the enemy. High fat and high cholesterol calories are the enemy. (Lack of activity is the enemy.) Choose a variety of foods and keep the high fat/high cholesterol foods to nil or minimum. Ask any “slender” person what the bulk of their diet consists of and they will tell you: whole grains (carbs), fruits and veggies(carbs), and probably healthy proteins (carbs). If you are convinced that carbs are your problem – try saying instead that “white flour and white sugar” are your problems.

Buying products that claim to increase energy.

Please do not be fooled by these claims. You get energy from calories. A label that claims increased energy is a false claim (unless it contains caffeine or another stimulant). The problem here is the different uses of the word energy. Energy to a nutritionist means calories; to a layperson means that they feel wide away and lively. You get energy (fuel) from any calories, no matter where they come from. To truly achieve “alertness and liveliness” from eating; choose foods that are calorie dense*, low in sugar and eat within a healthy calorie total for your needs. To achieve what we think of as “energy”: fuel up with healthy choices, move, get enough sleep and manage stress.

*(example: soda is not calorie dense – you are filling up on water, sugar, artificial sweeteners and chemicals.)


Lists of things are all in vogue on the internet right now, so I thought I’d share the top ten best things that have come out of the time since I joined Healthworks last summer and participated in the RESULTS program:

10.  This week, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I managed to finish a 12 minute mile.  In fact, I did two of them.  Maybe now I can finally get an A in gym class!

9.  For the first time in our 12 year relationship, I weigh less than my husband! (Even if it’s only by 1 pound!)

8.  Speaking of my husband, my lifestyle change has encouraged him to take up jogging and food-logging as well.  He lost several pounds when I started cooking healthier as a result of the RESULTS program, and now he is actively trying to change his lifestyle as well.

7.  I get positive comments about my successes literally every day, by co-workers, family members, and even random strangers!  This is a huge motivator!  My success is also motivating them to try to change.

6.  On any given day I can tell you what has gone into my body.  I have also become very good at estimating calories so that I can eat while I’m out, or on vacation, and still manage to be healthy.  I also know other important things about my diet, such as my sodium intake is too high, but my calcium is usually too low.  Knowing is half the battle!

5.  I am no longer afraid of cameras.  I’ve even joked about retaking my wedding photos from 4 years ago!

4.  In the past 9 months I have lost nearly 65 pounds, and as a result, I have gone from a size 24 to a size 16.  It has actually become annoying that I have to buy new pants every two months!  I am able to shop in REAL clothing stores again, and I’ve still got 20 pounds to go!

3.  Medical conditions that I used to have are either cured or have been greatly reduced by my increased activity and weight loss.  Believe me, working out and eating right is the best medicine for almost everything that ails you, and my doctor is so happy with me!

2.  I have reduced my risk of developing dangerous diseases that run in my family, such as Diabetes and Heart Disease.  Heart Disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and is tied closely to obesity.

1.  For the first time since I became an adult, I feel good about my body.  All teenage girls have body issues, but my issues led to weight gain and my self esteem never really recovered.  Now that I have faith in my will power and ability to change, it doesn’t matter that my body isn’t perfect.  I still have a long way to go, but I am confident I can maintain what RESULTS has started.