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Great Eat-spectations is my outlet for sharing recent news that sparks my interest (and hopefully yours), tasty recipes that I have tried, fun food facts, and fascinating articles for you to enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Border Cafe

Since I couldn't afford to go on spring break this year I chose to pretend I was in Mexico with the rest of the college students in the nation. So I headed over to the Border Cafe in Harvard Square in Boston, a large restaurant that offers a Tex-mex Cajun fusion. Border Cafe opened its first restaurant, in Cambridge, Massachusetts,  in 1987. Between 1990 and 2001 they expanded opening 5 more Border Cafes, 3 in Massachusetts, 1 in New Jersey and 1 in Delaware.

The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was the mouthwatering smell of hot fajitas. The restaurant was packed for a Wednesday night. We had to wait 25 minutes to be seated, but I was reassured by my friends that it was well worth the wait. The establishment has two large dining areas and a designated bar area. The top floor was loud and crowded but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We were eventually seated to the second floor where it was much quieter.

 The atmosphere was friendly, the tables were humble and wooden and the waiters were as nice as they get. The menu was as expected for a typical high volume mexican restaurant with a few creole appetizers, entrees and side dishes added in. There was a good mix of pricey items and less expensive items. Of course I chose a pricey item, the Salmon San Sebastian, and it was worth every penny.

The dish came out looking beautiful and tasted delicious. The mixed green salad was livened up with cilantro and a homemade herb dressing. The bean salad was tangy and sweet and the salmon was tender and moist. If you decide to visit the Border Cafe and order the Salmon San Sebastian I recommend you also try the house margarita on the rocks because the acid complements the fish so well.

If you like good food, a social atmosphere and are in the Harvard Square area this is the place to go.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vitamins, Sugar and Water.

Recently, The National Consumer League has come down hard on Vitamin Water (a Coca Cola Company product) over misleading advertising. The drink's ad campaign this past winter promoted it as a replacement for the flu shot and having the ability to reduce the risk of getting sick. The league wrote a letter of complaint, which was sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in February of 2011, stating “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health agencies, have recommended that many Americans get a vaccination to protect them from contracting the flu. Advertising that discourages consumers from following that advice can create substantial consumer injury”.

Vitamin Water contains 33 grams of sugar (about 8 ¼ teaspoons) per 20-ounce bottle, exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommended daily intake of added sugar . In the United States the number-one source of added sugar in the diet is sweetened beverages such as soda, juice and sports drinks. Americans consume an estimated excess of 150-300 calories per day, with half of these calories coming from sugar containing beverages. 

Essentially, Vitamin Water is a junk food disguised as a dietary supplement drink. A 20-ounce bottle of Vitamin Water contains half the amount of sugar as a regular 20-ounce Coke. Someone who typically limits their sugar sweetened beverage intake may mistakenly drink more of the product than they would if they were aware of its sugar content. The “Nutrient Enhanced Water Beverage” may potentially be harmful to consumers’ health. Diets containing excess amounts of added sugar could likely lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

Between the FTC and the FDA, standards for what food companies can and cannot say, and under what circumstances, remain broad. Companies will continue to use health claims to effectively market products. It is evident that misinformation and exaggeration about the benefits of Vitamin Water could potentially harm public health in the long run. Promoting junk foods as healthful could send consumers the wrong message and direct them away from eating actual healthful foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Under the Sea.

This past Sunday (March 20th) I attended the International Boston Seafood Show, for free thanks to my generous insider-friend. Oysters, crab cakes, seasonings, sauces, lobster claws, fresh water prawns, lobster bisque, clam chowder and so many more scrumptious seafood samples were drawing me from exhibitor to exhibitor. The overall theme I kept hearing about was sustainable fishing and the seafood industry's move toward aquaculture.

Although aquaculture and the dilemmas that the industry will be facing in the future are an important topic, I would rather talk about fresh water prawns. The clean and sweet taste. The firm and mild flesh. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Free samples are a great way to get potential buyers to take an interest in your product, but the boys at the American Prawn Cooperative booth knew how to draw me in and keep my attention. They talked with sweet southern accents and had a true confidence in their product. Fresh water prawns grown by the American Prawn Cooperative are an "Eco-ok" choice under Environmental Defense Funds seafood selector, in case you were worried I wouldn't follow through with the sustainability theme.

The giant freshwater prawn has a longer, narrower body and legs than its cousin, the saltwater-shrimp. They are similar to crayfish and lobster, but their arms are long with fine claws. Prawns are marketed in many forms: shelled or unshelled, raw or cooked, and fresh or frozen and available in many markets and grocers. Cooked, shelled prawns should be plump and firm.

Prawns, just like shrimp, are high in protein and omega 3's and low in fat. They can be used in any recipe that calls for shrimp. Give them a try, you won't regret it!

Nutritional Information

Serving = 3.5 ounces of raw edible food, wild species. 
Amount per serving
Calories106 g
Total Fat1.73 g
Total Protein20.3 g
Omega-30.49 g
Cholesterol152 mg
Sodium148 mg
Source: USDA

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Covertly Cleaning Up.

The big bad food company, it's a phrase most of us have heard whether we are familiar with food and nutrition or not. Many people assume that food companies are hiding things from consumers. Their objective may still be to increase the money that lines their pockets, but what they’re hiding may not be what you think.

While reading the winter issue of the ADA times, a publication from the American Dietetic Association, I read about the food trends predicted for 2011. Mintel, a London based market research firm, predicted that companies will reduce sodium, added sugar and fat from their products without advertising the changes. I immediately had two questions:

1. Why would companies start making healthful changes now?

2. Why aren’t they advertising the reductions?

According to Dr. Douglas Balentine, Director of Nutrition Sciences from Unilever, the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans are more effective than we thought. Maybe the public doesn’t fully grasp the concepts, but industry has taken notice and taken action. Dr. Richard Black from Kraft spoke in another class of mine and said, “Consumer interest in health and wellness is growing.” Companies are reformulating products to be healthier to meet the growing demand from the public.

So why aren’t these companies using the healthful changes to sell more products?

I had the pleasure to attend a seminar in which Ed Frechette, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Au bon pan, spoke about covertly making their products healthier. “People don’t buy something if you tell them it’s healthy. As soon as you put the badge of ‘healthy’ on something it wouldn’t sell.”
Here is a video of the seminar.

I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth when it comes to believing certain things that food companies say. Although, I feel a little better knowing they are trying. Food companies may be sneaky, but in this case it is in the best of ways.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tomorrow is Registered Dietitian Day!

As a newly credentialed Dietitian I am happy that there is a day in March devoted to promoting Registered Dietitians. Here are a few things you may like to know:

What does a Registered Dietitian do?
  • Registered Dietitians are experts in food and nutrition who can translate the complicated science into realistic solutions for healthier eating. 
  • Registered Dietitians use their skills to help people make individualized and positive changes in eating behaviors. 
  • Registered Dietitians can work in a wide range of places such as in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research and private practice. 
  • Registered Dietitians promote the advancement of the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.

    What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?
    Registered Dietitians and Nutritionist have the same interests in promotion of healthful eating habits and increasing physical activity. The difference lies in their educational qualifications and experience.

    Registered Dietitians have degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from well-respected, accredited colleges and universities. They have also completed a 6-24 month long internship to complete 1,200 hours of supervised practice. RDs must also pass an examination to be eligible for registration with the American Dietetic Association. Many states also license RDs to ensure that nutrition information that is promoted to the public is evidenced-based. In order to keep their credentials and license they must also complete continuing education credits by attending lectures, pursuing graduate studies, reading peer reviewed journals and more.

    A Nutritionist may not have the same education requirements, depending on the state, as an RD. Anyone with an interest in nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist. It would be irresponsible of me to say that nutritionists are not well-qualified, just that the term isn't as regulated as the RD, and therefore you should check a nutritionist's qualifications before choosing to use their services.

    Why would you consult a Registered Dietitian?
    1. If you have diabetes, cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. 
    2. You are considering having or have had gastric bypass or lap band surgery. 
    3. You have digestive problems. 
    4. You are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. 
    5. You need guidance and confidence for breastfeeding your baby. 
    6. Your teenager has issues with food or unhealthy eating behaviors. 
    7. You need to gain or lose weight. 
    8. You are caring for an aging parent. 
    9. You would like to eat better or learn more about nutrition. 
    10. You would like to improve your performance in sports. 
    To find a Dietitian near you visit the American Dietetic Association's website!

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    March is National Nutrition Month!

    Each year the American Dietetic Association chooses a healthful eating theme to promote throughout the month of March. This year's message is "Eat Right with Color."

    Creating a colorful plate for meals and snacks is important because it assures that you're eating a wide variety of foods. Each different color represents a broad range of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Treat your plate as a paint palate using a combination of whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fruits and vegetables. Make a point to choose as many different colors as you can each day. Have a bright and healthy month of March!