We are excited to invite Bonnie Taub-Dix into our joyofkosher kitchen. Bonnie is a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and Director and Owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants. Bonnie’s website can be found at http://bonnietaubdix.com.
Bonnie collaborated with Susie Fishbein to create Kosher by Design Lightens Up: Fabulous food for a healthier lifestyle. Her new book, Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time will show you how to make sense of food labels and avoid tricky marketing ploys.
1 Michelle Obama has helped draw international attention to the problem of childhood obesity in this country. You have been an advocate for healthy eating and wellness for nearly thirty years. What do we need to do to win the war against obesity in this country?
Obesity is a result of many factors and cuts across all age groups and ethnicities. Although simplistic, the 4 words “eat less” and “move more” says it all. Fad diets and skipping meals have generally been shown to create an unrealistic weight loss followed by weight gain. The easiest way to embark upon a weight loss journey is to try to cut back on portion sizes, eat more vegetables, and try to be more physically active than you have been. Don't compare yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself and aim for progress... not perfection.
2 You worked with Susie Fishbein on the popular cookbook, Kosher By Design Lightens Up. Do you have any suggestions for lowering the fat without losing the flavor?
When it comes to kosher cooking, I have found that there’s a tendency to repeat the recipes of our ancestors while also repeating their diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol levels! At almost 2,000 calories per cup, even healthy oils can break the calorie bank. Although fat provides flavor, it’s a lot healthier to try to cook with broths and a host of delicious seasonings and spices. These seasonings not only jazz up a dish, but studies have shown that they also provide numerous health benefits.
3 You recently published your newest book, Read It Before You Eat It (Plume 2010) exploring the information available on food labels and how to make healthier choices when food shopping. Why did you decide to write this book?
If only I had a dollar for every time a patient said, “I wish I could take you shopping with me.” Food labels have become confusing and in some cases, they are downright deceptive. There were no books around that described how to choose the healthiest foods in the supermarket in a realistic, shopper-friendly voice and I wanted to take on the role of making sense of the science. You can take Read It Before You Eat It shopping with you because it provides an aisle-by-aisle supermarket tour – like a GPS of your store.
4 What is the most common mistake people make when reading a product label at the grocery store?
We each have items on the label that speak to us: some people focus more on “calories” while others always check “cholesterol” or “sodium.” Although you shouldn’t have to feel like the supermarket is a library, a big problem is that so many of us rush when we go food shopping and we don’t take the time to read labels and compare products. We spend more time buying shoes and clothes – items that go ON our bodies instead of IN our bodies. Try not to be fooled by the flashy front of the package; flip the box or bag over to learn the facts about what's really in your food. And the next time that you go to the supermarket, try to buy one new item, perhaps a new vegetable that you’ve never made before. You never know…this could become your next family food favorite!
5 What are some recommendations for making better choices at the supermarket?
It’s hard to answer this question in a sentence or two after writing 250 pages about this subject, but here are a few labeling hot spots to look for: Even though a product may say “zero trans fats” on the front of the package, check the ingredient list for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated fats.” Because of a labeling loophole, manufacturers are allowed to boast, “zero” if the product has less than .5 grams of trans fat. Couple this with unrealistic serving sizes (like “1/2 muffin”) and you have a recipe for clogged arteries!
Another misleading label is “wheat bread.” If bread is made of flour it’s made of wheat – even if it’s white and stripped of important nutrients and fiber. Look for “whole wheat” or “whole grains” listed first on the ingredient list for products that are more valuable.
My book has lists of these misleading or confusing labeling terms to help you shop smart. For more hot tips and to read my blogs, check out my website at www.bonnietaubdix.com.
6 It’s back to school time. Do you have any ideas for healthy school lunches?
Most importantly when packing or buying school lunches, try to be sure your meal is balanced including a combo of protein, whole grain carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Some examples might be a cheese or nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with a fresh fruit or if meat is permitted, a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes and some baby carrots with hummos. Especially when consuming dairy, don’t forget that kids need at least 3 servings of dairy like low fat or skim milk or yogurt each day to get enough calcium. Get your kids involved in deciding upon and preparing their own lunches so that they are not the first kids to trade with others!
7 What advice would you give the busy home cook?
Although I adore cooking, I don’t always have the time to make everything everyday from scratch. It’s important to plan ahead and make sure you have all the ‘ammunition’ you need in your cabinets and fridge. Keep frozen veggies on hand to combine with some fresh ones so that you don’t have to shop every day. It might be easy to pick up a bar-b-qued chicken and then just throw together a few sides.
8 Sometimes we just have to get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the cooking. What do we need to know before ordering food at a restaurant?
Read the menu carefully to look for hidden words like “crispy”, “fried”, “creamy”, or “buttery” in the description. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side so that you can be in charge of how much or how little you add. Don’t be shy about asking if something can be grilled instead of fried or steamed instead of sautéed. Remember that you are the customer and they want you to come back, so you should be happy about what you’re eating.
9 Tell us about mealtime with your family. With three boys and a husband at home, do you argue more about leaving the toilet seat up or what is for dinner?
Mealtime is negotiable…the toilet seat is not! My husband loved my cooking from day one and I have always involved my children in the wonders of food, including shopping, cooking, and food safety (hand washing, storage, etc.) Raising a family of foodies is something I “kvell” over since they truly appreciate all that goes into making a dish from scratch whether its sautéed spinach and Portobello mushrooms or a warm molten chocolate lava cake. They were introduced to a wide variety of foods at early ages and were also taught about how foods directly affect the way we look and feel each day. We’d all agree that so many of our unforgettable memories are laced with the aroma of something yummy on the stove or home baked in the oven.
10 The Jewish High Holidays arrive early this year – always early or late, but never on time! What are some resolutions we should consider making for a healthier, happier New Year?
A life-saving goal is to try to preserve tradition while also preserving good health: food plays such an important role in our lives, whether it’s a week-day, shabbos, or a special holiday. The New Year is a perfect time to take a new look at your old eating habits – can you eat more vegetables, can you eat more slowly, can you cut back on some of the fat and sugar you’re used to cooking with and substitute more whole grains and leaner foods? My father always loved the expression, “health is wealth.” I wish you all a holiday rich in good health.
Thank you to Bonnie for sharing a healthy and delicious Shabbat Menu with the joyofkosher Community.