My Favorite Healthier Menu Items Around Boston

Wondering how a registered dietitian navigates the Boston casual dining scene? When eating out, it helps to have a few go-to healthy menu items in mind–dishes that are loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. See below for 5 of my current favorite nutritious menu options around town!

Healthy Menu Items in Boston: Museli from Tatte

Muesli from Tatte Bakery ($9 bowl pictured, or $6 cup): Unsweetened whipped Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, black sesame seeds, sliced almonds, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, oats, and a drizzle of honey

Healthy Menu Items in Boston: Grilled Veggie Whole Wheat Burrito from Annas Taqueria

Grilled Veggie Burrito from Anna’s Taqueria ($6.85): I choose the whole wheat tortilla (whole wheat is the first ingredient!) and fill it with black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, lettuce, and grilled veggies (an impressive mix of bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, corn, and green beans). That’s it. No meat, no cheese, no problem!

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Sweet Potato Sandwich from Crema Cafe ($6.95): Toasted whole grain bread filled with sweet potato, granny smith apple, hummus, sprouts, avocado, and sherry vinaigrette. Great for sharing!

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Salad from Sweetgreen (approx. $8.50-$10.50) I almost always go for the seasonal salads, but I also LOVE the Hummus Tahina and the Wild Child (with chickpeas)… and basically the whole menu!

Whole Wheat French Toast from The Paramount

Whole Wheat French Toast with Fruit from The Paramount Beacon Hill ($11): This is one of the few places that I have been able to find whole wheat French toast. Unfortunately, it was recently taken off the menu (to make room for new lunch specials), but the staff informed me that I will always be able to order it because they keep the whole wheat bread stocked for turkey sandwiches. So go ahead and ask for it, even if it’s not listed!

Do you know of any delicious, Boston area restaurant meals that are loaded with nourishing ingredients? Do tell! Also, for more of my food adventures, don’t forget to follow along on Instagram (@kellytoupsrd)!

– Kelly

Evidence that Nutrition Assistance Programs Can Help Improve the Food Environment

What good are food stamps doing to nourish the hungry if participants spend it all on junk food?

This is a common critique of nutrition assistance programs, and for a good reason. That being said, many hunger advocates counter that today’s hungry often live in communities where fresh, healthy foods aren’t available, and that tightening the nutrition criteria for these assistance programs will leave participants with nowhere to turn. After all, a little bit of junk food is better than no food at all. However, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior demonstrates that when nutrition assistance programs update their offerings to reflect the latest in nutrition research, the foodscape improves to benefit everyone.

FRUIT SELECTION

Background from the study:

“Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the US Department of Agriculture changed the WIC Program’s supplemental food packages, addressing nutritional concerns of the panel by offering low-fat milks and whole grains, and including cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables. Before the change, WIC offered juice, milk, cereals, eggs, beans, and other foods. However, the milk was whole milk, cereals were not whole grain products, there was no option to include whole grain bread or rice, and there were no fruits and vegetables. This set of changes, the first in a generation, went into effect in most states, including Louisiana, in October, 2009.”

So what happened after these changes were introduced?

For this study, researchers visited small stores in New Orleans right when the change was introduced, and then again a year later. In 2009, only 3.7% of stores participating in the WIC program carried whole wheat bread or brown rice, but a year later, 70.4% offered whole wheat bread and 92.6% offered brown rice!

These drastic improvements aren’t just a sign of the times, but can largely be attributed to the changes in the WIC program. That’s because at non-WIC participating small stores in New Orleans in 2010, whole wheat bread was only offered at a meager 1.5% of stores, and brown rice was only offered in 12.1% of stores. Additionally, the study found that the number of varieties of fresh fruit significantly increased (from 3 to 4) at WIC stores, but not at the non-WIC stores, and average shelf space of all vegetables increased in WIC stores by about 1.2 meters.

VEGETABLE SHELF SPACE

These improvements in healthy food selection benefit all shoppers, not just those in the WIC program. Could similar improvements be made to other nutrition assistance programs? Weigh in!

Note: Despite these hopeful findings, food choices in depressed communities are in dire shape. For more on this topic, see my blog post on the link between hunger and obesity. Also, to learn more about the WIC program, see here.

– Kelly

Healthy Valentine’s Day Menu

It’s almost that time of year! Instead of spoiling your loved ones with sugary treats that could lead to upset stomachs and dental carries, show them that you care by cooking some extra special, wholesome meals. Here is an entire day’s menu of healthy Valentine’s meals. The images are meant to inspire you, while the accompanying text will guide you through how to keep each meal nutritious. Enjoy!

Breakfast: Heart Shaped Pancakes

Healthy Valentines Breakfast

Image 1 via More Design Please, Image 2 via a pretty cool life

You can get these lovely heart shaped pancakes by using a squeeze bottle, cookie cutters, or even a plastic sandwich baggie with a snipped off corner. Serve with fresh fruit and a protein source (such as Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, or scrambled eggs). Make sure that you are using a whole grain pancake mix, such as one of these below.

Healthy Pancake Mixes

1) Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix, 2) Kodiak Cakes Frontier Flapjack and Waffle Mix – Whole Wheat Oat and Honey, 3) Hodgson Mill Multigrain Buttermilk Pancake Mix with Milled Flax Seed & Soy

Lunch: LOVELY Sandwiches

Healthy Valentines Lunches

Image via Lisa Storms

The possibilities with this one are endless! I love the balance with the fruits, veggies, and nuts. Just be sure to aim for a whole grain bread.

Snack: Heart Fruit Kabobs

Heart Fruit

Image 1 via Parents.com, Image 2 via Spoonful.com

A great set of cookie cutters goes a long way! Feel free to serve with either low fat or nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese on the side.

Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup for the SOUL MATE + HEARTS of Palm Salad

Valentines Dinner

Image 1 via Recipe by Photo, Image 2 via Paula Deen

This link has a great tutorial on how to make the heart shaped carrots. For a basic chicken noodle soup recipe, start here. I also like the one in my new Ellie Krieger cookbook. Paula Deen’s Hearts of Palm Salad with strawberries and spinach looks great as is, but hearts of romaine and heart shaped veggies (such as cucumber slices) would also make for a special thematic treat.

Dessert: Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

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Image via the Berry

It just wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without something sweet. I love the look of these X’s and O’s cupcakes. Instead of sugar laden box cake mixes, try this winning Red Velvet Cake recipe from the New York Times, which includes whole grain flour, cherries, apple sauce, and beets, among other healthy ingredients. Also on my list of healthy Valentine’s Day desserts to try is this Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Icing, and these Gluten Free + Vegan Red Velvet Brownies.

For more heart shaped food inspiration, check out this page on Pinterest. What will you be making this Valentine’s Day?

– Kelly