About Dr. Gourmet

My name is Timothy Harlan and I am both a physician and a chef. This blog is a general collection of information and random ideas on eating great food and eating healthy.

You can find out more at the Dr. Gourmet web site. Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

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Avoid distraction : Dr. Gourmet’s Health and Nutrition Bites

Back in 2006 and 2007 I reported on two studies that showed that both adults and children tended to eat more while they watched TV. Listening to music also seems to affect how much you eat. The theory is that being distracted from what you’re eating appears to reduce your attention from physical or mental cues to stop eating.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom sought to gain greater understanding of the distraction phenomenon by adding the question of snacking to the equation (Appetite 2015;92:287-294). They designed three brief studies to find out if being distracted in various ways while eating a meal would have an effect on how much a person ate later. In all three studies, the participants were split into three groups, with one group serving as a control group. They were served a standardized lunch followed 2-3 hours later with the opportunity to snack on as many cookies as they wished. Appetite and mood questionnaires were administered before each eating session. Avoid distractions »

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Casein; Kidney Beans; More : Ask Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: Do kidney beans contain Omega 3 fatty acids?

A: Kidney beans and most such legumes have very little fat of any kind. Peanuts and soybeans are exceptions to this, however. Omega-3 fatty acids in beans »

Q: How much salt in milligrams should a person on a low salt diet intake each day? Can you eat Kosher salt on a low salt diet?

A: Most physicians will ask their patients on a low sodium diet to consume less than 2,000 mg per day. We know from research on the D.A.S.H. diet that folks who eat less than 1,500 mg per day have much lower risk of high blood pressure. In our patients with the most severe of issues, such as Class IV heart failure, we will occasionally have folks on 1,000 mg per day, but this is a pretty tough diet to follow. Low sodium »

Q: I have psoriasis on my hands. I was told to stop eating dairy, as the casein in it is an inflammatory. So I have eliminated dairy from my diet and my hands are much better. It seems that I can still eat goat cheese. I haven’t tried buffalo or sheep cheese.

Have you seen or heard of any situations like this? It is quite a challenge for me. Do you have any advice?

A: I checked with a number of sources and looked long and hard at the medical literature. There’s no evidence of casein being “inflammatory” or that it provokes psoriasis. Here’s the reply from one prominent dermatologist »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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The Importance of Planning : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Today’s column is #17 in our “How to Eat Healthy” series.

Dr. Tim Says….

So far we’ve gone over getting your day structured for eating breakfast and lunch as well as what makes sense for dinner. All of this takes some planning on your part and I believe that this is the most important part of eating healthy. The better you plan, the better chance that you will stick to eating healthy.

People will plan almost every aspect of their lives. They know when they have to be at work, what meetings they will go to, times for the kid’s soccer game, when they are going to mow the lawn and on and on. Any successful project requires a plan. You wouldn’t think of building a house without architectural drawings and a construction plan. But folks just don’t take the time to put their meals into their plans, so they end up stopping off at Burger King or standing in front of the fridge at 6:00 P.M. thinking, “What are we going to have for dinner?” The importance of planning »

Mexican Fried Rice

This recipe happened because my wife and I were talking about the different types of fried rice dishes and realized that they were all restricted to Asian flavors. That makes sense, but the fact is fried rice is a simple, essentially one pot meal that is both quick and a great way to use leftovers.

So why not a Mexican fried rice? The interesting thing is that this took a few tries. There is a key component of Asian food and fried rice: soy sauce. That rich umami flavor is what makes fried rice, well, fried rice.

For this dish the chicken helps provide that umami flavor, as do the onions, but the key was the cheese. By adding just a bit this strikes the right balance of being both Mexican/Southwest flavors but also a fried rice.

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Whatever works : Dr. Gourmet’s Health and Nutrition Bite

Choose the diet you can stick to

There’s a lot of controversy over which diet is best if you want to lose weight. Low fat? Low carbohydrate? High fat? Mediterranean Diet? DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)? Weight Watchers? Jenny Craig? Vegetarian? Vegan? Omnivore? Pescetarian? The list is endless, and people will argue for their favorite diet with the zeal of a recent convert.

Studies pop up all the time that seem to show that one type of diet helps people lose weight faster than another type of diet. Just last Fall I shared with you an article that concluded that a low-carbohydrate diet would help you lose more weight than a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, many of those studies (including that one) that compare one diet to another are poorly designed, limit people’s food choices in unsustainable ways, or both.

A team at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina took the approach that rather than being prescribed a specific diet, for the purposes of weight loss alone people might do better and lose more weight if they could choose the diet themselves (Annals Int Med 2015;162:805-814). Makes sense, but as we know, just because something “makes sense” doesn’t mean it holds up to controlled trials. The diet that works »

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Balsamic Vinegar : Ask Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: Is there a universal star rating system for foods, namely Aged Balsamic Vinegar? If so please direct me where to find it. Also, which is more popular, Tuscan olive oil or Sicilian?

A: True balsamic vinegar is made from the Trebbiano grape and its rich brown color comes from aging in wood casks, often for decades. Although it is made from grapes, balsamic vinegar isn’t produced from wine (as is wine vinegar). The authentic product may not contain any wine vinegars. The grape juice is simply reduced and then made directly into vinegar. Rating system »

Q: Several years ago I bought 25-year-old Modena vinegar while in Modena. It has since gotten very thick. Is it still safe to use or should I throw it out? Can it be thinned down somehow?

A: This is exactly what your vinegar should be like. As it ages, balsamic vinegar thickens and takes on sweeter and more complex flavors. There’s no need to thin it out. Thickened vinegar »

Q: What is the percentage of alcohol in Balsamic Wine Vinegar – Modena Brand?

A: Your bottle may say Modena, but it may or may not be “Modena Brand.” The best balsamic vinegars are made in Modena, Italy and many bottles will have the Modena name on them. There is no requirement by the FDA or the USDA that manufacturers report alcohol content of their products (except for wine, beer and spirits).

Because vinegar is made in a two step process, first by fermenting alcohol and then by fermenting the alcohol to acetic acid, there will be some residual alcohol in vinegars. It is, however, very little. I found an article from 2004 in the journal Science Direct that indicates the amount of alcohol in a wine vinegar is between 0.1% and 2%. There are a lot of factors that go into this. Alcohol in vinegars »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Popcorn : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

A few weeks back I did a cooking demo, and as part of the presentation we included a discussion of snacks. There are a lot of great snack choices, but near the top of my list is popcorn. Why? Because corn is a whole grain and popcorn is corn.

As part of the demonstration, we threw a 100 calorie popcorn pack in a microwave, set the timer for 90 seconds, and all of the sudden, boom! – there’s a snack.

After the talk someone came up and asked about the popcorn that we used and the added oil and chemicals in the commercial varieties available (not to mention that she brought up the GMO issue). Truth is, there are some microwave popcorns out there with oils that aren’t all that great, and some of the ingredients in microwave popcorn do look to be pretty dubious. We used a natural popcorn with organic ingredients, but the challenge is always cost – such products are generally up to double the price. But there’s a solution. »

Creamy Peach Yogurt Pops
Key Lime Yogurt Pops

This recipe can vary depending on the size of pop mold you have or can find. I use 4 and 6 ounce frozen pop molds but you can often find 8 ounce molds as well. The best part is that if all you can find is 4 ounce molds you can have two pops and they will still be less than 60 calories.

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Gorgonzola; Microwaves; More : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: While recently attending a home show, I watched a demonstration of waterless cookware. The chef and salesperson indicated that their cookware preserved maximum vitamins in cooking fresh vegetables. They made the statement that microwaving fresh veggies almost instantly destroys up to 95% of the nutrients. I was stunned as I love to cook my naked fresh veggies to a crisp-tender in the microwave. Any opinion or research on this?

A: This is an urban myth (a nice way of saying that the huckster was trying to sell you a stupid product).

All cooking processes will change micronutrients, whether the food is boiled, fried, broiled, or microwaved. The less you cook an item, the less nutrient loss there will be. Which process is best? »

Q: I have a great salad recipe that calls for Gorgonzola cheese (which I hate). What would be a good substitute for that cheese?

A: Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese. Traditionally it has come from the Northern Italian town for which it is named and is a young cheese that ripens within three to six months.

Blue cheeses have had different bacteria and molds introduced during the ripening process to impart a distinctive sharp, earthy flavor. The most famous of these bacteria is Penicillum roqueforti, used in making the French version of this cheese. There is a wide variation in the flavors between different blue cheeses and you may want to start by asking at the cheese counter at a gourmet market for a taste of one of the milder cheeses. A substitute for gorgonzola »

Q: I was just wondering how accurate the nutritional information is in your recipes. I realize they can never be exact, but some of them seem way off. For example, the coconut shrimp says it has about 175 calories for 4 oz of shrimp and 2 tbsp of sauce, but there are about 166 calories in 4 oz of shrimp. If you could respond it would be very helpful because I enjoy using your recipes and they taste delicious.

A: Thanks very much for your question. I use a feature of The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan, My Recipe Box, that utilizes the USDA database, the gold standard for nutrition information.

Certainly checking the nutrition information can be a subjective process. Even within some of the choices offered by the USDA there are variations. Nutrition information for Dr. Gourmet recipes »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Rice-A-Roni Redux : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

A few weeks ago I wrote about Hamburger Helper. It is hard to overstate how disgusting I think that Hamburger Helper is. Quite simply it has no redeeming value at all: it tastes terrible, contributes to disease, is more expensive than making your own version, and well, there isn’t really anything else. It’s just foul.

Digression aside, we thought we might tackle another popular product that can be made better: Rice-A-Roni.

Rice-A-Roni has a long heritage as a rice and pasta dish. Eating it, one finds it difficult to believe that there is really any pasta in the dish – it has the texture of overcooked rice and the white pasta seems superfluous. It turns out more gummy than anything. Rice-A-Roni Redux »

Spanish Rice (Rice-A-Roni)

This recipe is based on Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice. Those products not only taste terrible but are terrible for you.

The argument is always that these products are easier, cheaper and take less time than making your own. As with our analysis of Hamburger Helper, this is simply not true. This takes about the same amount of time, tastes better, is cheaper, and is much better for you, with fewer calories, less salt, and more fiber. To make it even more Spanish, add a few coarsely diced black olives toward the end of cooking.

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Remoulade Dressing : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Remoulade Dressing

When you think about it, Remoulade is actually the precursor to Thousand Island Dressing – but with so much more flavor. This recipe is best made the night before using and goes great on salads, sandwiches (in place of mayonnaise), or as a perfect substitute to the traditional Cocktail Sauce served with steamed shrimp.

South of the Border Caesar Salad | Dressing

This is a cross between a Caesar salad and a Cobb salad, with a spicy twist.

This technique of using white beans in salad dressings is one introduced to me by a colleague. It works really well, giving a smooth and creamy feel to the dressing and adding a lot of fiber.

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Caffeinated Coffee and Colon Cancer : Dr. Gourmet’s Health and Nutrition Bites

There’s a tremendous amount of research available on the benefits of drinking coffee. Much of that research has attributed its positive health effects on the large amounts of antioxidants it contains, whether that’s caffeinated or decaffeinated.

While there are some case when you might want to switch to decaf (like those with an enlarged prostate), caffeinated coffee may help prevent high blood pressure and improve markers of inflammation in those with diabetes.

One of the difficulties in measuring the effects of any specific substance on health is in knowing for sure how much of that substance has actually been consumed by a study participant. Questionnaires are helpful, as are food diaries, but the gold standard is measuring the substance’s byproducts (its metabolites) that appear in an individual’s blood or urine after consuming it.

A team at the National Institute of Health sought to identify some of coffee’s metabolites, and along the way investigate what, if any links they might find between those metabolites and colon cancer. Coffee and Colon Cancer »

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