How to Have a Happy Halloween, Do You Know Your Heart Age, Split Pea Soup, Sunny Waldorf Salad

Did You Know……?

Americans buy 600 million pounds of Halloween candy and the average person eats about 1.2 pounds on Halloween! All that sugar has direct negative effects on our health, contributing to weight gain, cavities, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation. This year avoid the Halloween candy binge by waiting to buy your supply on October 31, not buying your favorite kinds, and enjoying candy as part of your dinner meal instead of mindlessly munching on it out of the bag. How much is okay? Go for the snack sized candy bars (dark chocolate is the best) which contain about 75-100 calories.

Do You Know Your Heart Age?

I had a great time this month at my professional association’s annual conference in Nashville. I attended some excellent educational sessions on the latest research in nutrition and health. One of particular interest was on cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although the risk of dying from a cardiovascular event has declined over the past 30 years, CVD is still the leading cause of death and disability for both men and women over 40. And here’s a sobering statistic: by 2030, 40% of adults in the US will have one form of CVD. The presenter spoke about the process of aging which leads to arterial stiffness and dysfunction of the arteries causing:

  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • kidney disease
  • stroke
  • cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease
  • coronary disease
  • motor disorders and falls

The primary mechanisms of aging are caused by inflammation and oxidative stress. The concept of oxidative stress is a complex one but the best definition I could find is from Dr. Andrew Weil:

” Oxidative stress is the total burden placed on organisms by the constant production of free radicals in the normal course of metabolism plus whatever other pressures the environment brings to bear (natural and artificial radiation, toxins in air, food and water; and miscellaneous sources of oxidizing activity, such as tobacco smoke).”

Although we cannot stop oxidative stress and the aging process, we can do a lot to prolong good health and reduce our risk of developing CVD. It all comes down to lifestyle strategies.

  • Exercise: Aerobic activity is one of the most powerful ways to delay aging. You don’t have to become a marathon runner, but work on adding in a brisk walk most days of the week.
  • Diet: Eat like a rainbow, adding in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and dried beans. They provide powerful antioxidants to tame the oxidative stress and inflammation. Watch your sodium intake. Lowering sodium from the average American diet level of 3400 mg to the recommended 1500-2300 mg can lower arterial stiffness and improve artery function within 2 weeks.
  • Some foods of interest that were mentioned as decreasing blood pressure and lowering CVD risk were yogurt, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, black and green tea, curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), mushrooms, beet root, soy, grapefruit, hard aged cheese, honey, and unsweetened cocoa and dark chocolate.
  • Tobacco use: avoid smoking or chewing tobacco

Last month I wrote about a fitness calculator you could use to estimate your fitness age. This month I’m including a heart age calculator created by the World Heart Federation to help you find out how old your heart really is. After you find out your heart age, check here to learn the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke, the risk factors for heart disease, and different ways to control those risk factors to protect your heart.


Split Pea Soup

Serves 4-6

It’s raining as I write this and the next few days will be in the 40s…perfect soup weather. This thick, flavorful soup is a family favorite!

  • 7 cups liquid (I like to use 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth and 3 cups water)
  • 1 lb split peas, rinsed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 large carrots, chopped (or 1 bag mini carrots)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large parsnip, chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme), leaves removed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt at end to taste


  1. Place all ingredients in a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot.
  2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, cook for about 2 hours. Stir every now and then.
  3. Mash up with a wooden spoon and remove bay leaf before serving. Season to taste with black pepper and salt.
  4. If you like it smoother, blend in the pot using an immersion blender. I like it sort of chunky so I only blend it a little bit and leave some chunks of the veggies.
Note: To make in a crock pot, I only use about 6 cups of liquid (3 cups of broth and 3 cups of water). Cook on high for about 4 hours.

Sunny Waldorf Salad

Fall is a great time to make use of all those seasonal apples. Enjoy this refreshing and quick salad!

Serves 6.

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 organic apples, unpeeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 large orange, peeled, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, or raisins
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, orange juice, honey, and cinnamon. Add the apples, orange segments, celery, pomegranate seeds or dried fruit, and cashews. Stir to mix.

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Creative Way to Peel a Pomegranate, Fitness Calculator to Rate your Fitness Age, Roasted Cream of Tomato Basil Soup, Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion

I love pomegranates and I have two in my fridge right now. In a previous newsletter I showed you a method for peeling them underwater to avoid the juicy mess. But have you seen this neat method for peeling them? Can’t wait to try this!

Rating Your Fitness Age

We all know exercise and physical activity are important for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing chronic diseases. Now a new study suggests that your fitness age, measured by your cardiovascular endurance, may be a better indicator of life span than your chronological age. Norwegian scientists have created a fitness calculator you can use to help estimate your fitness age. It asks simple questions like your age, gender, waist size, and exercise routine. While your chronological age can’t be changed, the good news is that your fitness age can! The website makesgreat suggestions for improving your score by increasing your activity level.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Basil Soup

Serves 4-6

Forget that canned soup of your childhood! Roasting tomatoes gives an incredible depth of flavor to an old favorite. Make it now while you can still get fresh heirloom tomatoes and freeze it for those cold days ahead!

  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of mostly heirlooms and some cherry)
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup half and half or cream


1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2.  Wash, core and cut the tomatoes in half. You do not need to peel or seed them. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto an oiled baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until caramelized.

3.  Remove roasted vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large pot. (Reserve some roasted cherry tomatoes for garnish.) Add the vegetable or chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third. Remove the bay leaves.

4.  Add the basil leaves to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. (Or place in a blender in batches and blend).  Return soup to low heat, add half and half or cream. Add additional broth if soup is too thick. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in bowls and garnish with reserved cherry tomatoes.

Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion 

I am so proud of my dear friend Andy Hyman who has recently published this terrific book!

Whether you’re headed to Napa and Sonoma counties in California, checking out wineries in your local area, sipping at your dining room table or wanting to talk intelligently with your wine-smart friends, this book gives you the skinny in plain-speak. Andy Hyman, winery guide extraordinaire, de-mystifies the vocabulary and seemingly inscrutable rituals of wine appreciation. At last, someone who writes like the rest of us talk!

Among other things, you’ll quickly find out:

  • How to get the most out of a wine tasting experience
  • What to expect and ask for in wineries
  • How wine gets from vine to bottle
  • How to understand what a wine label can tell you while shopping for wine
  • How to get your wine purchases home from out of town
  • How to match foods with specific wines, including cheese and chocolate pairings!

Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion, Wine Smart in a Day, Napa & Sonoma Edition, Snob Free Press, 2015, ISBN 978 -0-9862443-1-5. The book is available at and on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

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Peel a Banana Like a Monkey; Easy Freezing Tips; Roasted Beets, Feta, and Pecans; Veggie Nachos

Bananas are the most popular and widely eaten fruit in the U.S. And if you’re like most people you peel them from the stem end. This is sometimes quite messy and ends up squishing the banana. So do it the way monkeys do: hold the banana upside down and pinch the tip between your thumb and forefingers. The skin will easily split in half for a flawless and easy peel!

Easy-peasy Produce Freezing

Even if you don’t have your own garden to harvest, this is the perfect time to hit the farmer’s markets and bring home fresh produce to freeze. Getting food ready for the freezer is pretty simple. You’ll be glad when those cold winter months come along and you can pull out summer fresh food from your freezer! Always use freezer-safe container and bags, squeeze as much air out of the bags as possible (I use a straw to suck out the excess air!), and label before freezing. They’ll taste best when eaten within about 6 months.

Cook your corn on the cob for 3-4 minutes (boil, steam, microwave). Let cool. Cut kernels off the cob and package to freeze.

You can actually pop whole tomatoes in freezer-safe plastic bags and freeze. They’ll slip right out of the skins when defrosted, ready for homemade tomato sauce. Or cut tomatoes in half, roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes, cool, and freeze.

Jalapeno peppers:
Whole peppers freeze beautifully, although they will be soft when defrosted, not crunchy. Just pop in plastic bags and you’ve got peppers for your next guacamole or salsa.

Wash well, grate, and freeze in 1-2 cup portions for your winter zucchini bread recipes.

Green beans:
Trim green beans, cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Plunge into icy cold water for 3 minutes. Remove and pat dry. Lay out on cookie sheet lined with a towel. Freeze solid, about 90 minutes. Now place in plastic bags.

After washing and lightly drying (careful not to crush them), place on cookie sheet lined with a towel. Freeze for about an hour. Place in plastic bags.

Although you probably won’t find rhubarb at the market now, I wanted to include this so you’d know for next year. Just wash and chop fresh rhubarb, then store in the freezer for your strawberry-rhubarb crisp and rhubarb sauce recipes.

Wash and dry fresh herb sprigs (I find it’s easier to freeze them on the stems), place in plastic bags, and freeze.

Roasted Beets, Feta, and Glazed Pecans

Serves 4-6

I used fresh beets from my garden to make this delicious variation of a beet salad. Many people make the mistake of discarding the greens when they cut them off the beet root. DON’T make that mistake! They are great used fresh like lettuce in salads and sandwiches. You can also lightly steam them like I did for this recipe.

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze (see Note below)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • large bunch of beets (I used about 10 small-medium ones)
  • 1/3 cup whole pecans
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup good quality feta (or goat) cheese


  1. For the dressing, combine the first 5 ingredients, shake well, and set aside. NOTE: You can buy balsamic vinegar glaze (Trader Joe’s has it and I’m sure other grocers do, too) or make it yourself by boiling balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by about half. It will get sort of syrupy and intensifies the flavor.
  2. To roast the beets, cut the beet roots from the leaves. Discard the stems and set aside the leaves. Scrub the roots well and place in a large square of heavy duty foil. Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Crimp the foil to surround the beets, place on a cookie sheet, and bake at 375 for about an hour. Let cool for about an hour, then wearing rubber gloves, peel the skins off the beets. (This is a messy job and the rubber gloves really help! If the beets are fresh the skins often just slip off by rubbing with a paper towel. If they are a little older you may need to using a paring knife). You can do this a few days ahead if desired. When ready to prepare, cut beets in half and set in the middle of a large serving plate.
  3. To make the pecans, place in a dry non-stick skillet and toast for a few minutes. Watch so they don’t burn. Add maple syrup, stir and cook a few minutes to coat the nuts. Turn off heat. As they cool in the pan, they will dry. You can do this ahead. After they cool, store in a covered container.
  4. To cook the greens, wash well to remove any dirt and grit. Tear or chop large leaves into nice size pieces (not too small). Lightly steam leaves for about 4-5 minutes. Cool slightly, then place in a few layers of paper towels and squeeze out excess liquid. Place greens around beets. Drizzle all with the dressing.
  5. Sprinkle with feta or goat cheese and glazed pecans. Serve at room temperature.

Veggie and Bean Nachos

Serves 4

Serve these nachos as an appetizer for your next dinner party or for a light summer dinner on the patio.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion (yellow or red, your preference), chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped (not too small)
  • uncooked corn kernels cut off of 2 ears of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, chopped finely (wear rubber gloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I like chipotle chili powder, more punch!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 14.5 oz. can cannellini, pinto, or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 6 slices pepper jack cheese
  • For Garnish:
  • chopped avocado or 1/2 cup guacamole
  • sour cream
  • chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • chopped tomatoes


1. Add oil to a large skillet. Heat oil and add onion. Saute about 3-4 minutes (don't brown).
2. Add zucchini, corn, and spices. Cook about 5 minutes.
3. Add beans and garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Keep warm.
4. Place tortillas on a cookie sheet (may need to do these in 2 batches).
5. Spray each side with cooking spray or brush with oil.
6. Broil one side for about 2 minutes. Turn over, broil 2 minutes.
7. Place a cheese slice on each tortilla. Broil 1-2 minutes, watch so cheese doesn't burn.
8. Remove, let cool a minute, then cut into wedges.
9. Place bean mixture in the middle of the plate and surround with tortilla wedges. Serve with garnishes of your choice.
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Calcium supplements may be linked to macular degeneration

A recent study of almost 3200 people who reported taking calcium supplements demonstrated a possible link with macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in those over 65. Those participants who said they took more than 800 mg/day of supplemental calcium had a higher risk for developing this eye disease. Although the study doesn’t demonstrate cause and effect, it gives one pause to reconsider a foods first approach. Only rely on supplements if there is a good reason you can’t get enough nutrition from your diet.

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New study: Half of Dr Oz’s advice is baseless or wrong!

Years ago, when Dr. Oz was an occasional guest on Oprah, I was impressed with his knowledge about diet and overall health. But once he got his own series and had to come up with content for a daily show, I started to cringe at much of what he was promoting. Sure enough, a new study in the British Medical Journal, which analyzed the advice on Dr Oz and The Doctors, found viewers need to be cautious about their advice.

The researchers reviewed the recommendations in 40 random episodes from both shows and determined that over half of the recommendations (the vast majority were diet-related) had no supporting scientific evidence or actually contradicted evidence-based recommendations.

So next time, before you buy the latest hot new supplement recommended by a medical talk show, check out reputable sites like WebMD or or contact your health care professional.

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Soda may age you as much as smoking!

Besides the risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, a new study of 5300 healthy Americans found  that drinking a 20 ounce bottle of regular soda every day is linked to 4.6 years of additional aging. This is about the same effect as someone who smokes about a half pack of cigarettes per day. Yikes!

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Fun or exercise? Your outlook may affect your intake later!

Two new studies from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab revealed some fascinating results. In the first study, adults were led on a walk around a small lake; some were told it was an exercise walk, others were told it was a scenic walk. Then they were fed lunch. The “exercise walkers” ate 35% more dessert than the “scenic walkers.”

In the second study, adults were given a snack after their walk. Those who thought they had done an “exercise walk” ate 200 more calories of a candy snack, which was twice as much, as those who thought they had done a “scenic walk.”

The “exercise walkers” also felt less happy and more fatigued than the “scenic walkers.” The researchers theorize this may be why people in exercise programs don’t necessarily lose weight; these feelings may lead people to reward themselves for exercising by indulging afterwards.

Take Away: Make exercise fun and something you enjoy…if it’s a “chore,” you may find yourself raiding the refrigerator later!


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Here’s an easy “mindless” way to eat less!

According to Brian Wansink, a food pyschology researcher at Cornell University, people eat about 92 percent of whatever is on their plate without regard to how full they feel. One simple strategy to eat less: use a 10 inch instead of a 12 inch plate and you’ll serve yourself 22 percent less food!

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New study: Beta carotene and Vitamin E not recommended for prevention of heart disease or cancer

Researchers from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently conducted a systematic review of the evidence to assess the benefits and harms of using vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplements for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. See their recommendations below:

• Current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the use of multivitamins for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer
• Current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the use of single- or paired-nutrient supplements (except beta carotene and vitamin E) for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer.
• USPSTF recommends against the use of beta carotene or vitamin E supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer

o Beta carotene may increase the risk for lung cancer in people at risk for the disease
o Use of vitamin E lacks effectiveness in preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer

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Nuts: A Powerhouse Food!

Here’s another great study linking the intake of nuts to longevity and better health! I encourage my clients to have a small handful of a variety of nuts every day…enjoy!

“Nuts have long been called heart-healthy, and the study is the largest ever done on whether eating them affects mortality.

Researchers tracked 119,000 men and women and found that those who ate nuts roughly every day were 20 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who never ate nuts. Eating nuts less often also appeared to lower the death risk, in direct proportion to consumption.

The risk of dying of heart disease dropped 29 percent and the risk of dying of cancer fell 11 percent among those who had nuts seven or more times a week compared with people who never ate them.

A bonus: Nut eaters stayed slimmer.”

The original research article is at

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