• Theresa Gentile

Updated: Jul 2

A delicious alternative to lobster on a busy weeknight.



Crab rolls have become a staple on my monthly dinner rotation. They’re super easy to prepare, a meatless option, and, more importantly, everyone likes them.


Of course, lobster is my first choice, but crab is more reasonably priced. But a quick note on imitation vs. real crab meat. I remember the day I was sitting with my dietitian colleagues in our hospital cafeteria eating the imitation crab meat, thinking we were getting a heart-healthy protein source on our salad and gawking at the notion that imitation crab meat was high in carbs and sugar. “High in sugar?! But this is a protein and it’s not sweet!” The joke was on us!


Imitation crab meat isn’t just various fish mushed together into a mold (surimi, it’s called, which is actually usually made from pollock). Surimi only comprises about 30-50% of imitation crabs’ weight. The remainder is be made of water, starch, egg proteins, sugar, sorbitol, unhealthy vegetable oils and sodium or MSG. Oh my….


So, although the calorie content of imitation crab meat is similar to real crab meat (about 80 calories for 3 ounces), imitation crab is much lower in protein, higher in carbohydrates, sugar, and salt and lower in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals.

So, it’s certainly not horrible to have a crab roll with imitation crab meat occasionally, but if this recipe makes it into your regular rotation, as it has mine, you may want to splurge for real crab meat. You can purchase real crab pre-shelled in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, frozen, or even canned.


These rolls would also be perfect for a barbecue, picnic, or easy summer lunch. I add a lot of lemon zest and herbs for extra flavor.


Easy Crab Rolls

Serves: 4


Ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise (You can swap ~ 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt for 2 Tbsp mayo and no one will be the wiser...)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice + 1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ - 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

12 ounces lump crab meat

1 Tablespoon chopped chives

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or chervil (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

4-8 lettuce leaves

4 brioche hot dog buns toasted

1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for rolls, optional


Instructions:


1. Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, and hot sauce, if you’re using. Add the fresh herbs, if you’re using them.


2. Pick over crab meat for any shells. Add mayo mixture to the crab meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


3. If brushing outside of buns with butter, do so, then toast until golden brown.


4. Layer lettuce into each bun, divide crab meat mixture and spoon on top of lettuce. Enjoy!


Tell me if you try it!



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Updated: Mar 26



Organic, natural, GMO...oh, my! What do the labels mean and what does it mean for your health? Read on to find out.

If you’re like me, I want my kids to know that chicken doesn’t naturally come in the shape of dinosaurs...or that fish don’t swim as breaded sticks. And that veggie straws aren’t really a form of vegetables. (Yes, sad, but true.) But maybe that’s not good enough...maybe I can do more for my family’s health.


Should I buy organic foods?

Maybe we should go GMO-free?

What is "Natural", anyway?


Organic foods and the labeling process can be confusing and so can the health implications. Here's the breakdown.

Who is in charge of labeling foods organic?

Here, in the U.S., the National Organic Program of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service enforces the organic regulations.

What defines an Organic food?

Here is a breakdown of the food labels you might see in the grocery store:

Organic

The term ‘organic’ refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, including crops and livestock. Organic farming techniques involve biodiversity, integration, sustainability, natural plant nutrition, natural pest management, and integrity.

Organic labels can be found on produce, dairy, meat, processed foods, condiments, and beverages. A food product can contain the “USDA Organic Seal” if it contains at least 95% organic ingredients with no synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, biotechnology, synthetic ingredients, sewage sludge, or irradiation used in production or processing. The products must also undergo the organic certification process.


Organic crops are those that are not grown with the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or bioengineered genes (GMOs). Organic produce must be grown on soil that did not have a prohibited substance applied for 3 years prior to harvest (most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides).

Organic meat requires that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors, fed organic feed, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.

“Made with organic ingredients”

This label can be used if a product has at least 70% organic ingredients and is produced without synthetic methods. (But they cannot use the USDA organic seal on their packaging.)


How many organic labels are there?

There are four distinct labeling categories for organic products:

-100 percent organic

-products must consist of 100% certified organic ingredients. The label must contain the name of the certifying agent and may include the USDA Organic Seal and/or the 100% Organic claim. -Organic

- these products must contain ingredients that are certified organic. The exception is these ingredients found on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. According to the USDA, “no more than five percent of the combined total ingredients may contain non-organic content. Additionally, the label must include the name of the certifying agent, and may include the USDA Organic Seal and/or the organic claim.”

-“Made with” organic ingredients

- at least 70% percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients; the organic seal cannot be used on the product, and the final product cannot be represented as organic

– Up to three ingredients or ingredient categories can be represented as organic. The rest of the ingredients don’t have to be organic but must be produced without genetic engineering.

-Specific Organic Ingredients

-Multi-ingredient products with less than 70 percent certified organic content

-don’t need to be certified

-cannot display the USDA Organic Seal or use the word organic on the principal display panel. They can list certified organic ingredients in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients.


Then there's these labels, in case you weren't confused enough....


-Certified Naturally Grown

-This label indicates that a food was not grown on a certified organic farm by the National Organic Program of the USDA, but was grown using the same standards as those for organic. As farmers have criticized the cost and process needed to participate in the USDA’s organic program, this is an alternative, non-governmental certification system where other farmers act as inspectors in a program administered by a non-profit organization called Certified Naturally Grown.

-Grassfed

-This grass-fed label is administered by the USDA for ruminant animals like cows and goats. It states that these animals must be fed only grass and forage during the growing season. According to Farmaid.org, “The American Grassfed Association is one organization that certifies beef, bison, dairy, lamb and goat that is fed only on pasture, in addition to being raised without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, confinement and with standards for high animal welfare. Other animals, like chicken and pigs, can be pasture-raised (and USDA organic standards require at least some access to pasture), but there are currently no specific certification standards for non-ruminant animals being grass fed or pastured.”


Are Organic Foods Healthier and More Nutritious?

The public’s perception that organic foods are healthier has created a multi-billion dollar organic food industry. Studies of the nutrient content vary and how they may contribute to health. Nutrient content varies from farmer to farmer and from year to year.

But reviews of multiple studies show that organic foods provide greater levels of:
vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, antioxidant phytochemicals, (anthocyanins, flavonoids, and carotenoids), omega-3 fatty acids.

And lower levels of:

-nitrates, pesticide residues.

In four separate clinical trials, people who switched from conventionally grown to organic foods saw a rapid and dramatic reduction in their urinary pesticide concentrations, a marker of pesticide exposure.

The research also shows that the levels of harmful chemicals in conventionally grown produce may only be ~30% lower than organically grown produce. Remember, organic foods are not necessarily 100% free of pesticides.

Whether you choose organic or conventionally grown, you should still practice these tips:

-Choose a variety of foods and vary your intake so you decrease your chances of being exposed to a single pesticide

-Buy fruits and vegetables in season or or shop at a local farmer's market

-Keep an eye on the "Dirty Dozen" list. (Get the Environmental Working Group's 2021 List here.) (The EWG uses test data from the federal Department of Agriculture to assess residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides on fruits and vegetables. Each year, they put out a list of the top 12 produce that contains these chemical residues. (Note to self: strawberries are almost always #1 😢)

-Scrub produce thoroughly

-this helps remove dirt, bacteria, and some chemicals from fruits and vegetables. Since this won't remove most pesticides, make sure to peel the skin off fruit when able and discard outer leaves of leafy greens.


What do you think? What do you do at home? Will this change what you do and the food you buy??


References:

1. https://www.farmaid.org/food-labels-explained/

2. https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic

3. Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):4-12. PMID: 20359265.

4. Vigar, V., et al., A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients, 2020; 12(1), 7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010007. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/1/7/htm.

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Updated: Mar 26



Have you ever set exciting goals where you started out motivated and driven, only to look back and wonder later on how you got derailed? Setting strategic goals and following through with these steps can be a surefire predictor of success if done right.


The most successful people and professionals understand how important goal-setting is before jumping into any important task. Goal-setting is used at work, in counseling, smoking cessation, athletics, weight loss, and other health goals. Goals give meaning to our actions and an anticipated result; effective goals will guide us there with success.


Did you know that you can, essentially, trick yourself into becoming your ideal self?

Research has shown that when we set goals for ourselves and train our brains to work towards the things we want, we’ve rewired our brains to achieve that goal. Achieving it brings us pleasure. Failure just motivates us further to get to that endpoint.


Research has shown that when we set goals for ourselves and train our brains to work towards the things we want, we’ve rewired our brains to achieve that goal.

Goal setting is like a recipe for a meal. Each ingredient and direction is important and in the right order. Nor can you expect to run a 26 mile marathon when you’ve only been able to run 2 miles at a time. Just like you can’t expect to lose 30 pounds if you haven’t changed your eating habits or dealt with underlying factors, like emotional eating.


The recipe (or goal) guides you to the end-product with a clear path to get there. It sustains the momentum and enables you to spot interference more easily.


The process is important, as well.


We learn from our mistakes and our brain will remember these instances and try to set itself up for success next time. We are programmed to preserve our own self-esteem. Once you binge on so much chocolate that it makes you nauseous and gives you a headache, you experience the physical and emotional side effects of that. The next time you encounter this situation, you remember this. Your brain will remind you. But you might have to enact your willpower at times, as well.




Achieving goals can boost self-confidence, but don’t overlook the process of getting there. This is where you’ll learn new skills, recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and grow the most. It’s in failure that we learn...and remember better for next time.


What are SMART goals?


George T. Doran coined the SMART goals acronym in 1981 in a management research paper. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Below is a brief explanation of each.


Specific. Your goal should be small and clear enough that there’s no question as to what you’re aiming for. Why small? Because we get bogged down and overwhelmed when the task is insurmountably large. Long-term, broad goals are rarely met. If you’d like to lose 50 pounds in one year, then break that down into months...aim for 3-4 pounds per month. That’s much more do-able.


Measurable. A good goal will be measurable. How much weight do you want to lose? How low are you aiming to lower your cholesterol? What blood sugar number are you aiming for? How many days per week will you work out and for how long?


Attainable. Your objective must be attainable but still challenging. If working out 3 days per week is something you already do most of the time, then stretch yourself to 4 times per week. (As opposed to 7 days per week which may not be attainable or reasonable at all.)


Relevant. Your goal should directly align with your overall goal. Try not to throw “repainting the bedrooms” in with a goal of “lowering my blood glucose to normal range within the next 3 months.” Stick with the plan and prioritize goals accordingly.


Timeliness. Create specific timelines for your goals that aren’t too far in the future that you forget about them. If it is a long-term goal, break it down into small pieces so you’re reassessing your progress every few weeks.


*If you’d like my FREE worksheet for SMART goal-setting, enter your email address below and let me know!*


OK, so you’ve taken your large goal of, say, losing 30 pounds in 8 months. You’ve set SMART goals, you’ve broken down your aim of weight loss of 1 lb per week - now what??


Empirical evidence on how to achieve your goals


In an often-cited study, Dr. Gail Mathews, a professor in Dominican's Department of Psychology, found empirical evidence, “for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals,” said Dr. Mathews.


Dr. Mathews had 149 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States and overseas who completed a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and accountability for those actions.


Participants were divided up into 1 of 5 groups. Group 1 was simply asked to think about their goals and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before.


Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same measurements as given to Group 1.

Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.

Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.

Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.


So who actually completed their goals?


Matthews found that more than 70% of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend completed their goals or were more than half-way there.

Those who kept their goals to themselves without writing them down were only 35% successful.


How can you be successful in achieving your goals?


1. Write it down. Cement it in your brain by either putting it on paper or creating a visual representation, like a map or vision board.


2. Have a well-planned process with actionable steps.

How are you going to get to a weight loss of 1 pound per week? Well, you may have to cut back on mindless eating, pay more attention to portions or increase the frequency of physical activity. Having a clear process mapped out increases the chances that you will stay on course.


3. Build in accountability

The most successful people in Dr. Mathews’ study not only wrote out SMART goals with a clear plan to get to their target, they also sent a weekly progress report to a friend to hold themselves accountable. A friend or peer is good, but an unbiased coach may be better. Often, a friend may not understand your exact issue, have issues of their own that influence their feedback, or are simply busy with their own life. A coach will have a trained eye for spotting distractions, help you stay on course, and hopefully have extensive knowledge about your issues.


When you fail


I say when, instead of if, because there will certainly be times when you don’t hit your target at your desired timeframe. (Especially with weight loss, which is influenced by so many factors - it’s not always as easy as calories in vs. calories out.)


But don’t get hung up in doubt, shame, and negative thinking. Practice adjusting your mindset to one of growth instead of one that’s fixed. Yes, this will be hard...yes, there will be blips and bumps in the road. But, as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is Figureoutable”.


The whole process of goal-setting and devising an action plan creates resilience and self-confidence you didn’t know you had. Respect the process and stay in the game. It’s a whole lot easier than getting out and trying to join back in later.


*If you’d like my FREE worksheet for SMART goal-setting, enter your email address below and let me know!*

And if you’re looking for a weight loss or health coach, fill out the inquiry box below, and let’s chat!


Thanks,

Theresa


References:

Frequent goal setting that is focused specifically on diet or physical activity was more predictive of using dietary or physical activity strategies, respectively, than goal setting focused on weight loss overall.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17032703/


Study focuses on strategies for achieving goals, resolutions

https://scholar.dominican.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1265&context=news-releases


Gordon ML, Althoff T, Leskovec J. Goal-setting And Achievement In Activity Tracking Apps: A Case Study Of MyFitnessPal. Proc Int World Wide Web Conf. 2019;2019:571-582. doi:10.1145/3308558.3313432



Dennison L, Morrison L, Conway G, Yardley L. Opportunities and challenges for smartphone applications in supporting health behavior change: qualitative study. J Med Internet Res. 2013;15(4):e86. Published 2013 Apr 18. doi:10.2196/jmir.2583


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