Brenda J. Ponichtera is a registered dietitian and author of several award-winning cookbooks, including the recently released Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas. Her books give readers more than just amazing and simple recipes...she also includes sample grocery lists, dietary information, and substitution suggestions.
LoveToKnow Recipes spoke with Brenda about her new book and what our readers can do to improve their diet.
Healthy Recipe Interview
LoveToKnow (LTK): After having a successful practice for years, what made you decide to write a book?
Brenda Ponichtera (BP): After having a successful practice, I decided to write a book at the suggestion of my clients so I could help more people eat healthy. In my practice, I would see clients with a variety of concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, weight loss, and people who just wanted to eat more healthy. I would give my clients recipes, menus, and even grocery lists. These had to be appropriate for all of the above and because none of my clients seemed to have much time to spend in the kitchen, all the recipes had to be quick. My clients suggested that I use these recipes and menus, etc., and write a cookbook. I also included all of the handout materials, such as time saving tips, that I offered to them. At that time, it was hard to find a cookbook that met the needs of a variety of special dietary concerns, appealed to all members of the family-yes, teenagers, also-and had quick-to-prepare recipes.
LTK: What are you hoping people take away from your book?
BP: Besides the recipes, which are true time savers, there is a wealth of information that can help anyone eat more healthy. I also hope the menus and grocery lists will help people to start planning menus and shopping once a week. That is a real time saver as well as a money saver and can also help people reach their goal of being more healthy.
Pork as a Health Food
LTK: We've heard a lot about pork recently and I notice you include quite a few pork recipes. Why is pork back on the menu after a few years when it was seen as unhealthy?
BP: Pork is now the other "white meat," raised to be leaner. And this is wonderful as it adds variety to meal planning. Lean pork such as rib, loin, and tenderloin are low in fat and offers a variety to any diet.
Healthy Shopping and Substitutions
LTK: I love the grocery lists you include. What are some common mistakes consumers make when food shopping that leads to unhealthy habits?
BP: 1. Figuring out what you'll have to eat while you are grocery shopping. Too many tempting, high-priced and high-fat foods! 2. Shopping when hungry - Everything looks and smells so good. It's hard to resist. 3. Not sticking with your grocery list.
LTK: What are 2-3 easy substitutions people can make in their diets to improve their health?
BP: These are the easiest and most painless substitutions that can help people to improve their health:
- Cut back on fat by replacing a higher-fat food that you eat every day with a lower fat food. The positive effect really adds up. Example: Switch from whole milk to fat-free (skim) milk. Not only will you eliminate the fat but also extra calories every day. This change is about a 100 calorie savings per cup. So if you drank one cup of whole milk every day and switched to fat-free, that would equal a 10 pound weight loss in one year. Pretty painless weight loss.
- Add more fiber by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables make healthy snacks and are a great substitution for processed snacks such as chips and cookies. For variety, serve fruit slices with a fat-free yogurt for dipping and serve vegetable sticks/slices with low-fat ranch dressing.
- Use skinless chicken parts and well-trimmed meat in recipes. You won't miss the fat or the extra calories and you'll be eating more healthy
Sample Book Recipe
For a sample of the recipes in Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, try this recipe for Stir-Fry (Beef, Pork or Poultry). Brenda mentions that she uses 4-5 cups of sliced vegetables in this recipe. By changing the vegetables you use each time, it will seem like a new recipe. Tougher vegetables should be added first for longer cooking.
- 1 pound boneless top sirloin beef, pork top loin or skinless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 1 small zucchini, cut into strips
- 1-2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cut meat into strips 1/4-inch thick.
- Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add meat and stir-fry with garlic until browned. Remove and keep warm.
- Stir-fry carrots until partially done. Add water or broth, as needed, to prevent sticking. Add remaining vegetables and stir-fry a few minutes. Add meat, soy sauce, and pepper. Continue to stir-fry until vegetables and meat are done to your liking.
- Serve with rice or noodles.
Cooking tip: Vegetables that also work well in this recipe are green, yellow, or orange bell peppers; baby corn; celery; green, red, or yellow onions; cauliflower; cabbage; snow peas; mushrooms; and bean sprouts. Note: One serving is a good source of fiber. Makes 4 servings. Each serving contains: Carb Servings 1/2 Exchanges; 2 vegetable; 3 lean meat.
Nutrient Analysis: calories 213; total fat 9g; saturated fat 3g; cholesterol 66mg; sodium 145mg; total carbohydrate 8g; dietary fiber 3g; sugars 4g; protein 25g.
Source: Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, Third Edition, © 2008 Brenda J. Ponichtera, R.D, Published by Small Steps Press, an imprint of the American Diabetes Association.
A review copy of Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas was provided by Brenda J. Ponichtera for this article.