What Should I Eat

Do You Have a Sweet Tooth?

If so, you’re in good company! Half of all Israelis say that they eat at least one sweet food every day. And they’re probably not counting sweetened beverages.

Israel ranked the third highest in consumption of sweets among OECD* countries recently surveyed. (Fortunately, we also ranked third in the amount of vegetables we eat.) The average Israeli eats nearly 40 kilos (18 pounds) of sweets each year. The amount of sweets eaten in the US is even higher.

Women report eating more sweets than men and claim that sweets help improve their mood and increase their energy. Women tend to eat sweets in the afternoon, while men prefer them in the evening.

We all know that sweets are a big contributor to expanding waistlines. They’re often called “empty calories” – filling us up so we aren’t as likely to eat the food that’s good for us. But obviously, most of us aren’t going to give them up so soon.

To cut back on the sugar in your diet, drink water, sparkling water, and unsweetened herbal, green or regular tea instead of sweetened sodas, high calorie iced coffee and tea and fruit drinks.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with nutrient rich sweets like these:

Natural peanut butter and pure-fruit preserves on a rice cracker
An ounce (28 grams) of dark chocolate
Low-fat or fat-free yogurt
Fresh, frozen or dried fruit
Low-fat pudding try my recipe for homemade chocolate pudding
A small handful of sweetened nuts (see the following recipe)

* Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, consisting of 34 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.

Cinnamon Walnuts

I especially like walnuts, but you can use any other nut, or a combination of nuts. Double the recipe if you’d like, and store half of these in the freezer.
Stick to a heaping ¼ cup serving of these, as nuts are high in (healthy) fat.

1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
½-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar (I use demarara sugar for these)
2 ½ cups walnuts

Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, sugar and vanilla. Add the nuts to this mixture, and mix to coat them completely. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Mix the nuts around on the baking tray and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

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What Should I Eat? Avocados

True or False: You shouldn’t eat avocados because they’re really high in fat.

Answer: Avocados are high in fat (30 grams of fat in half a medium avocado), but it’s the good-for-your heart monounsaturated kind of fat.

Don’t overdue it if you’re watching your weight, but there are plenty of reasons to enjoy avocados in moderation.

Half of a medium size avocado (100 grams/3.5 ounces) has 160 calories.

And those calories are packed with nearly 20 nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and assorted phytochemicals.  Like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, potassium, folate, lutein and fiber.

Counting carbohydrates and protein? Half of an avocado has 7 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of protein.

The California Avocado Commission lists eight varieties grown there. In Israel, we grow at least seven varieties. So some type of avocado is available almost any time of the year! 

Chop or slice avocado into salads. Mash it with a bit of lemon juice for guacamole. Thin the guacamole with some olive oil for a salad dressing. Spread avocado on bread instead of mayonnaise. It’s great in sandwiches too.

Looking for gourmet? The Grinfeld family recently started producing avocado oil in Israel. 16 kilos (35 pounds) of avocados are processed into a quarter-liter (1 cup) of amazingly delicious (and expensive!) oil. Look for it at specialty-food stores or contact them through their website.

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What Should I Eat? Beets

More short tidbits about “normal” food that is good for you.


We spent a day in Tel Aviv during Chol Hamoed Pesach. Just for a change of scenery, a walk along the sea and a meal in a restaurant rather than at home.

I ordered fish and an unusual-sounding salad:  Beets, walnuts and goat cheese on a bed of baby mix, dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

Wow! Beets have never topped my list of favorite vegetables, but this was a winner. I added beets to my next shopping list.

My mom made one thing with beets – cold borscht. I remember it fondly as a kid, served with a dollop of sour cream and chopped cucumber. Very refreshing on a hot summer day.

Otherwise, beets never managed to inspire me. Until I tasted this salad.

When I do cook beets, I usually roast them to preserve their flavor. Wrap them whole (cleaned but not peeled) in heavy-duty foil, place on a baking sheet and cook them in the oven at about 400 degrees F (200 C). When they’re done, cool and peel.

Steaming is an even quicker way to cook beets. Use a steamer basket on the stovetop or a baking dish with a few tablespoons of water in the microwave. First trim and peel the beets with a vegetable peeler. Cut them into wedges, cubes or slices, about 1/2 to 1 inch (1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cm) thick. Steam them for 10-15 minutes on the stovetop or 8-10 minutes in the microwave.

Half a cup of beets has 29 calories, 2 grams of fiber and nearly 20% of the daily value for the B-vitamin folate. Their gorgeous color comes from betanin, a phytochemical that may bolster the immune system.  They also contain heart-healthy antioxidants and the powerful cancer-fighting agent betacyanin.

 

 

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What Should I Eat? Nuts

Got the munchies? Need an easy, satisfying snack?

Eat a handful of nuts. They’ll take the edge off of your hunger. They’re a great source of protein. And full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Yes, they’re high in fat, but it’s mostly good, unsaturated fat. The kind that reduces LDL (lousy) cholesterol and keeps HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels high. In fact, people who regularly eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease than people who rarely eat them.

But nuts are high in calories.

So don’t add nuts to an already high-calorie diet. You’re likely to gain weight. And excess weight could cancel the health benefits of nuts.

Here’s the trick: eat nuts instead of cookies, candy, chips and other junk food. And don’t overdo it. An ounce or two (28-56 grams) of nuts a day is a reasonable amount. That’s ¼ to ½ a cup or a large handful.

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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