Saturday, June 11, 2016
You’re probably already aware that eating off extra-large plates can translate into consuming extra-large portions and that watching TV during a meal may distract you enough to make you overeat. The latest research on restaurant ambience examined how bright versus dim lighting affected diners’ food choices.
The study had several different prongs. The first involved a survey of 160 patrons at casual chain restaurants. Those sitting in brightly lit rooms were 16 to 24 percent more likely to order healthy foods (such as grilled fish or chicken and vegetables), while those in rooms where the lights were dimmer were more likely to order unhealthy items (like fried food or dessert). Plus, those eating in darker dining rooms ordered 39 percent more calories.
The researchers then replicated these results in four additional lab studies, involving 700 college-aged students. A surprising finding was that when the students were given a caffeine placebo — or even just told to be more alert — those dining in dimly lit rooms were now just as likely as those in the brightly lit rooms to make healthy choices. This led the researchers to theorize that it’s not the lighting itself that affects our decision making, but how alert we feel while we’re ordering. “We feel more alert in brighter rooms and therefore tend to make more healthful, forward-thinking decisions,” says the study’s lead author, Dipayan Biswas, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at the University of South Florida.
However, a 2012 study actually found that dimming the lights in fast-food restaurants resulted in people eating more slowly, eating less overall and enjoying their food more, so turning down the lights in your eating environments isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Just make sure you’re feeling alert enough to order something healthy when you sit down. How about taking a brisk walk around the block before you head into the restaurant?
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.
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This Italian dish borrows an Asian trick for frying chicken: Use potato starch instead of flour and/or breadcrumbs for a crispy and gluten-free coating. Potato starch has been mentioned before as a potentially beneficial resistant starch. Unfortunately, heating potato starch can negate its RS function, which means you won’t benefit from eating it in this recipe. But it doesn’t change the fact that potato starch is gluten-free and, more importantly (if you love fried chicken), it’s a perfect crispy, crunchy coating.
Plus, with a few other easy changes, you can turn Chicken Parmesan into a completely Primal meal: spaghetti squash instead of noodles, flavorful, juicy chicken thighs instead of breasts, and only a light sprinkle of aged cheese.
To coat chicken (or even fish) with potato starch, simply dredge it through the potato starch to evenly coat the meat. Then fry in at least an inch or two of lard or oil. The smaller the pieces, the faster they’ll cook. Frying the pieces twice makes for an even crispier coating.
In the case of these herb-coated chicken strips for Chicken Parmesan, once in the frying pan is enough. Toss the juicy, crispy chicken with the spaghetti squash noodles and marinara, and it’s a bowl of “pasta” that even an Italian grandmother would love.
Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour
- 2 spaghetti squash, cut in half, stringy insides and seeds scooped out
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (15 ml)
- 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch/2.5 cm wide strips
- 1/2 cup potato starch (60 g)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (4 ml)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (5 ml)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish (15 ml)
- 2 cups marinara sauce, warm (350 g)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional) (45 g)
- Lard, for frying
Recipe Note: Make sure to buy potato starch and not potato flour. They look similar but are very different. Potato flour will give you a soft, gummy coating, not a crispy coating.
Preheat oven to 375 °F/190 °C.
Brush each half of the spaghetti squash with olive oil on the flesh side. Season with salt and pepper. Bake spaghetti squash, face down on a rimmed baking sheet, for 45 minutes or until soft and easily pierced with a fork.
In a wide bowl, mix the potato starch, salt, oregano and basil.
Season the chicken lightly with salt. Dredge each strip of chicken through the potato starch, coating it evenly.
Heat 1 inch/2.5cm of lard in a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the lard is very hot and shimmering, add the chicken in batches, cooking until both sides of the strips are golden brown and crispy.
Use a fork to loosen the spaghetti squash into “noodles.” Pour some marinara sauce over each squash, layer with chicken, and then another layer of sauce. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh basil.
Want to add more cheese? Top the squash, marinara sauce and chicken with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella. Return to the oven (or put under the broiler) until the cheese is melted.
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The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans found that 90 percent of the U.S. population fails to get the recommended daily amount of vegetables. Based on these statistics, most of us (including me!) could use a little help taking in more — especially those nutrient-packed greens. Here are eight ways to quickly pack more greens into your day.
- Use leftover veggies.
Many folks forget those excess greens they have stored in the back of the refrigerator. Next time you make a recipe, leave those greens at the front of the refrigerator and toss them into your morning omelet or into soup, or chop them for a green salad to tote to work. It’s also a great way to help reduce food waste and use everything you’ve got.
- Use collard greens instead of a tortilla wrap.
Use large leaves of collard greens instead of bread to wrap your favorite taco or sandwich. Just trim the leaves, blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, and blot them dry before stuffing with your favorite fillings.
- Stock up on frozen greens.
Stock your freezer with a few greens like spinach and kale and toss them into soups, pasta, or chili dishes for some added greens. Look for frozen greens without added butter, which adds unnecessary calories from fat. Some new brands on the market, like Tommy’s Superfoods, add spices for few calories, making the greens an easy side dish or flavored addition to dishes.
- Add leftover greens to your morning eggs.
An easy way to get more greens first thing in the morning is to add leftovers right into your morning omelet or frittata. Spinach, kale and chard work deliciously. One prepackaged option, Scramble Leafy Greens by Clever Foodies, consists of packaged greens you can mix right into your morning choice of eggs. The Leafy Greens variety adds 60 calories per serving and includes kale, tomatoes, onion, spinach, broccoli rabe and spices.
- Blend greens into smoothies.
Get your greens first thing in the morning by tossing kale or spinach into your morning smoothie.
- Add greens to burgers.
Toss fresh herbs, chopped spinach or kale into your burger patty mixture to up your greens. Ellie Krieger does a fabulous job in this mouthwatering recipe for My Big Fat Greek Burgers. If you don’t have time to cook, you can always turn to Hilary’s Hemp & Greens Burgers, made with millet and a variety of greens, including arugula, beet greens, spinach and kale.
- Drink cold-pressed juice.
An easy way to get your greens is to gulp them. You can find many cold-pressed juices at the market, or grab a bottle of Evolution Fresh when you pass your local Starbucks. Check out how your favorite green juice ranked in our taste test.
- Snack on kale chips.
Either make your own or purchase premade versions like Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips to serve beside wraps and sandwiches instead of chips or french fries. Kale chips also make for a quick and easy snack.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
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Not sure about bringing your kids in the kitchen to cook with you? Not sure if you want to deal with the extra mess or hassle? Here are the reasons I believe they absolutely SHOULD be in the kitchen… Read more →
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