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Aluminum, stainless steel, teflon ... what is best for food contact?


Have you ever wondered if an aluminum casserole is better than a steel one? Or which non-stick material is best: ceramic or teflon?

Now you can read about this and get reliable information from the Guida alla Scelta dei Materiali per la Cottura degli Alimenti (Guide for the Selection of food contact material for cooking), published by the Italian National Dietetic Association (ANDID) with the supporto of the Department of Publich Health of the University of Florence.

A guide that  "... in a simple and concise manner, prioritizing practical information, describes the characteristics of materials currently used for cooking instruments.... As specified in ANDID's Code of Practice good information contributes to empower individual knowledge, but is also the base for healthful choices both at and indivual and at a community level."

The information in this guidebook is up-to-date and documented with links to the cited documents.

Unfortunately the guide is in Italian, but most links are in English.


After-Holidays Non-diet 7: menu plan for the seventh day


Last day of this after-holidays week. Have you followed the advice thus far? Have you managed to get rid of leftover panettone, trotters and sausages? And to avoid eating between meals and to resist without wine for one week? Great! Make a commitment and take it to the end is a first step towards the achievement of its objectives, the so called "good intentions".

I suggest to do this exercise: write today, on your calendar, or anywhere you like, the good intentions for the coming year and plan the steps to achieve them. Periodically, check out  the situation. Do not aim to huge goals: take it easy, to get used to the change. And only after consolidating the new habit, make another small step.

Some examples? A big sweet tooth could aim at eating a dessert only on Sundays, within three months. Reaching the goal little by little will make the change more natural and easier. Is it hard to say no to a piece of cheese after each meal and you think your overweight could be caused just by this excessive consumption? The first goal would be to move from seven to three times a week within a couple of months: go stepwise by reducing quantity and / or frequency. Without even noticing, you will significantly reduce both calories and saturated fat in your diet!

But lets go on with the menu.

Menu and recipes for the seventh day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf)

  • when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: fresh pineapple , 125 g natural yoghurt (unsweetened). Tea or coffee (preferably without sugar). snack: two slices of fresh pineapple
  • lunch: raw artichoke-carpaccio, potato and corn salad
  • snack: 1 glass of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • dinner: brown rice with stewed cuttlefish, steamed cauliflower
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 45 minutes of brisk walking

Chicory sprouts with garlic and anchovies
(serves 4)

  • chicory sprouts, 1 bunch
  • garlic, 2 cloves
  • EV olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • anchovies (in salt/in oil), 4 fillets
  • vinegar (if liked)

Separate the sprouts, cut them lengthwise, immerse in cold water and ice for at least one hour.Being soaked, they should curl up and lose some of the bitter taste. Chop the garlic and the anchovies. Drain the sprouts and mix all.
Note: avoid adding salt, since the anchovies are already very salty.

 Mackerel croutons (serves 1)

  • wholewheat bread, 2 slices
  • mackerels in oil, or in water, 1 small can (70 g)
  • red pepper, some grains

Toast the bread

Place the mackerels on the bread slices and season with red pepper.
Note: did you know that we should reduce tuna fish consumption and replace it with mackerels? According to the experts, our seas would be very pleased (but sooner or later the mackerels units would complain!).
From a nutritional point of view also, mackerel is better than tuna: since they are small, they accumulate less heavy metals (mercury, lead).


Pumpkin soup (serves 4)

  • pumpkin (yellow or green skin), 800 g
  • while onion, 1 large
  • nutmeg and pepper
  • salt, just a little
  • EV olive oil 20 g

 Remove the skin from the pumpkin, cut into pieces. Peel the onion and cut it. Cook onion and pumpkin in just a little water (the pressure cooker works well). If too much water remains after cooking, let it evaporate, or pour it into a glass: it can be drunk or used later in another soup. Blend, add a little salt if necessary, pour into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of pepper and nutmeg.

White wine turkey (serves 4)

  • turkey breast, 400 g
  • EC olive oil, 20 g
  • white wine, 1 glass
  • flour or corn starch, 2 tablespoons

Cut the turkey ion small stripes. Roll them in the flour or starch. Heat the oil in a pan. Sautée quickly the stripes until golden, sprinkle with the white wine. Toss, add salt and pepper. Serve hot.

After-Holidays Non-diet 6: menu plan for the sixth day


For this sixth day of "non-diet" I propose a typical dish from the Puglie region (southern Italy): fava beans (broad beans) and chicory. The season is perfect, you should easily find the chicory. Actually, if you find a bunch of "puntarelle", the chicory sprouts, you will be all set with the salad for day 7: puntarelle with garlic and anchiovies. For lunch you could have a "piadina". And do not forget to save time for a long walk, or a short walk plus some intense activity.


Menus and recipes for the sixth day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf)


  • when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: fresh fruit and nuts salad. Tea or coffee (preferably without sugar).
  • snack: 1 kiwi
  • lunch: two raw carrots, "piadina" with mozzarella and arugola
  • snack: 1 glass of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • dinner: broad beans with chicory, whole wheat bread
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 30 minutes of brisk walking and one hour of activity in the gym or other intense activity (swimming, biking, running, dancing, etc.). Or a two hours long walk.



Fresh fruit salad (serves 4)

  • an apple
  • a pear
  • a banana
  • juice of two oranges
  • walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, ... 80 g
  • dried apricots, 40 g

Wash the fruit and cut it into cubes. Add the orange juice, the chopped nuts and the dried fruit. Consume immediately, not to lose the vitamins. If needed, store in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container for up to a day.



Piadina (serves 1)

  • 1 piadina/flat bread
  • mozzarella, 60  g
  • rucola (arugola), 30 g
  • olives, 10 g
  • EV olive oil, 1 teaspoon 5 g

Piadina is a sort of flat bread, like pita, or bread used for wraps. Choose a brand made with olive oil, or with no fat, and avoid the traditional piadina based on lard.

Heat the piadina in a pan, just a couple of minutes are enough (do not add any fat). Slice or dice the mozzarella cheese. Wash the rucola. Cut the olive in pieces.
Fill the piadina, add some olive oil, wrap or close the piadina in half, whatever is most convenient.


Broad beans with chicory (serves 4)

  • dried, split broad beans, 400 g
  • chicory leaves, 800 g
  • EV olive oil, 4 cucchiai
  • garlic
  • hot chili pepper
  • salt

Soak the broad beans for a few hours. Boil them in non salted water (double volume of water with respect to the beans) until very soft. In the mean time wash and clean the chicory, blench it in hot water for a few minutes. then drain, keeping some on the water. In a large pan, heat the oil, garlic and hot pepper. Sautée the chicory, adding some water if moisture is needed. Put the broad beans in the blender, to obtain a dense puré, add a pinch salt and serve hot, with two slices of roasted whole wheat bread.

After-Holidays Non-diet 5: menu plan for the fifth day


If you are still following this series of message, here you will find the menu plan for the fifth day of non - diet. Resist! Three more days and then ... we will see how to proceed.

In these menus I always try to suggest simple dishes, quick to prepare and  based on easily available ingredients. If unusual food are listed, I'll try to suggest alternative possibilities.


Menus and recipes for the fifth day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf)

  • when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: 125 g natural yoghurt (unsweetened), with half an apple or pear and 40 g of muesli (see recipe on this web site). Tea or coffee (preferably without sugar).
  • snack: two slices of fresh pineapple
  • lunch: raw artichoke-carpaccio, potato and corn salad
  • snack: 1 glass of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • dinner: brown rice with stewed cuttlefish, steamed cauliflower
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 45 minutes of brisk walking


Raw artichoke-carpaccio (serves 1)

  • 1 artichoke (spiny)
  • EV olive oil, 10 g
  • lemon, squeezed
  • salt (just a little), pepper
  • pine nuts or walnuts, 1 tablespoon

Prepare the artichokes: discard all external hard leaves, cut the top-part of the remaining leaves. leaving only the tender and crisp part. Discard the internal hairy core. Cut the artichokes in half and them slice them very thinly. Season immediately with lemon juice (to prevent browning), some oil, pepper and just a pinch of salt. Marinate in this seasoning while preparing the rest of the meal. Add pine nuts (toasted, if possible) or walnuts before serving.


Potato and corn salad (serves 1)

  • potato and corn salad, 150 g
  • corn kernels (canned), 1 small can
  • green of black olives, 3-4
  • capers, 1 teaspoon
  • EV olive oil, 1 teaspoon
  • mustard, 1 teaspoon
  • pepper

Boil the potatoes with the skin (to better preserve minerals and vitamin C).

In the mean time, drain the corn, cut the olives in pieces, chop the capers. Mix all together and add the oil, mustard and pepper (do not add salt, since olives and capers are already very salty). Peel the potatoes, cut in cubes and add to the other ingredients. Toss before serving.

Brown rice with stewed cuttlefish (serves 4)

  • brown rice (e.g. black or red rice), 320 g
  • cuttlefish/squid/ octoput (fresh or frozen), 400g
  • peeled tomatoes, 800 g
  • garlic, 2 cloves
  • EV olive oil, 20 g + 10 g
  • parsley, finely chopped, a bunch

Clean the cuttlefish (or other mollusks) and cut in pieces/stripes. Chop the garlic and fry it lightly in the oil, without burning it. Add the cuttlefish, sautée at high flame, then add the tomatoes, mashed  with a fork. Cover and simmer approximately half an hour.
Cook the rice "al dente" (read the instructions on the package). Drain, add one tablespoon of oil.

After-Holidays Non-diet 4: menu plan for the fourth day



In this week, you are receiving a mail from me every day with simple, fast and healthy recipes, to get back on track after the Christmas binge eating. It will last only for a week, and then the pace will slow down again.

I know some people find it hard to drink plenty of water, especially first thing in the morning: strive and make it an irreplaceable habit. It's easy: if you have an internet connection that allows you to read these news, you probably also have a bathroom with running tap water: there is no need of a glass, you may use your hands as a cup. A few hearty gulps when you wake up will also help you feel refreshed and ready to face the day. In all we should drink an average of one and a half liters of water a day.

For this fourth day I suggest a minestrone soup, to warm us up in the cold nights of January. It can be prepared in large quantities and then kept in the refrigerator, stored in single or multiple portions, as you prefer. And for lunch I propose some chicken, to vary the source of protein.


Menus and recipes for the fourth day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf)

  • when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: caffè-latte (partially skimmed milk and strong coffee), two slices of wholewheat bread with some jam or honey, on freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • snack: a banana
  • lunch: chicken breast with thyme and lemon, mixed salad, wholewheat bread 50 g.
  • snack: two slices of fresh pineapple
  • dinner: minestrone soup, with legumes and farro. Two nuts and two dried apricots to complete the dinner.
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 30 minutes of brisk walking. One hour of activity in the gym or other intense activity (swimming, biking, running, dancing, etc.).


Chicken breast with thyme and lemon (serves 1)

  • half chicken berast, 150 g
  • one lemon, organic
  • thyme, salt, pepper
  • EV olive oil, 10 g

Slice the lemon in thin slices. Heat the oil in a small non stick pan. Sautée the lemon slices, until golden. Remove the slices and set them aside. Stir fry the chicken breast (not sliced) in the sauce left by the lemon. Be careful to cook the chicken thoroughly. When ready, put the lemon slices back into the pan and add some finely chopped thyme. Add some pepper and very little salt.


Minestrone soup with vegetables, legumes and farro (serves 4)

  • mixed vegetables and legumes (even frozen is OK), 1 kg
  • hulled farro/spelt, 160 g
  • EV olive oil, 4 tablespoons
  • garlic-rosemary, finely chopped
  • pepper

Place all vegetables cut in small cubes and the legumes in an appropriately sized casserol. Add some water, just to cover the vegetables: the minestrone should be very thick.
Cook for approximately one hour, or 30 minutes in pressure cooker.
Cook the farro separately, as directed, ad add it at the end to the soup. Add some salt, if necessary, and the chopped garlic and rosemary.  At the table, add some pepper, one teaspoon of grated cheese and some olive oil.

If you prefer, you may use barley or wholewheat pasta instead of spelt. Or you can toast two slices of wholewheat bread, rubbed with some garlic, and place in the place, all covered by the cheese.

After-Holidays Non-diet 3: menu plan for the third day


Here are some tips for the third day of non-diet. I wonder if you have already tried the two previous menus...

A reader of the site asked me if it would be sufficient to reduce those we know to be our excesses. Not to go drastically from the holiday excess to the complete exclusion of all sweets and alcohol, would it be possible to do something in between, such as reducing the cookies, and cutting the wine intake? Of course, this would be the wiser, but many people tell me that they cannot  maintain the commitment, many people prefer the total abolition rather than a reduction, because they are afraid that the temptation to have more would be irresistible!

Diets of every shape and color exist, and more or less they all work for short periods, as long as you're careful. You will lose weight, with more or less ease, depending also on our individual characteristics, but as soon as you relax a bit  ... you lose control and have to start all over again.

I am therefore of the opinion that drastic diets are contraindicated. I prefer to suggest a balanced Mediterranean style diet, with not too much caloric restriction. In any case, removing the cakes and sweets is ALWAYS wise, our body does not need them. It is better to drastically cut on some food items, at least for a few weeks.

And now, our third day's plan...


Menus and recipes for the third day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf)

  • when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: yogurt, fresh fruit and nuts,  a wholewheat rusk. Tea or coffee (preferably without sugar).
  • snack: a freshly sqeezed orange juice
  • lunch: raw veggies "in pinzimonio", pasta with tomato sauce
  • snack: two slices of fresh pineapple
  • dinner: spinach and tofu patties, red radicchio salad, wholemeal bread 50 g.
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 45 minutes of brisk walking. 


Low fat yogurt with... (serves 1)

  • natural low fat yogurt, 125 g
  • pear, 1/2
  • raisins, 10 g
  • walnuts, 20 g
  • wholemeal rusk (eg. Wasa), 1

Pour the yogurt in a larger bowl, add the pear cut in pieces, the nuts and raisins, and the crumbled rusk.  Stir all and eat while the rusk is still crispy.


Raw veggies "pinzimonio" (serves 1)

  • carrots, fennels, artichockes, peppers, celery, etc. as much as you can eat!
  • EV olive oil, 10 g
  • balsamic vinegar, pepper, a pinch of salt

Cut all veggies in sticks. Mix oil, vinegar or lemon juice, pepper and just a pinch of salt. Dip the veggies in the oil mixture and crunch!


Pasta with tomato sauce (serves 4)

  • whole wheat pasta (penne, fusilli, etc.), 320 g
  • peeled or crunched tomatoes, or fresh mature tomatoes, 400 g
  • onion, 1
  • garlic, 1 spicchio
  • oregano
  • EV olive oil, 20 g

Heat the water to cook the pasta (a lot of water), adding a pinch of salt.
In the mean time put tomatoes, onion, oil in a mixer and mix on high speed for a few seconds.  Pour in a small pan, add the whole garlic clove and the oregano and cook on a high heat.
Cook the pasta "al dente", drain and season with the tomato sauce, adding some more oregano, to taste.


Spinach and tofu patties (makes 25 patties, i.e. 5 portions)

  • frozen spinach surgelati, 1 kg
  • natural tofu, 360 g
  • eggs, 1
  • hard cheese (grana, parmigiano, pecorino, etc), 40 g
  • whole wheat flour, 100 g
  • pepper, nutmeg
  • breadcrumbs or sesame seeds for "breading" the patties
  • olive oil for frying

Thaw the spinach in a pan with just a drop of water, or in the microwave

Chop the spinach. Add chopped tofu, egg, cheese, nutmeg, pepper, flour. If possible, let the mixture rest for half an hour (so that the flour may absorb the excess moisture and the patties will stay together).

Put some bread crumbs or the sesame seeds in a dish.

Form some patties with your hands, and roll them in the bread crumbs or sesame seeds.

Heat the oil, fry the patties on moderate heat. As an alternative, you can also bake the patties in the oven, until golden.

Note: this recipe can also be prepared with ricotta cheese instead of tofu. But the tofu version is much less energy dense, since tofu has half the calories of ricotta. One portion (4 patties) of oven baked patties provides 209 kcal. The fried version has twice as much (419 kcal).


Red radicchio salad, with fennels and apples (serves 4)

  • red radicchio, 200 g
  • fennels, 200 g
  • apple, 1
  • EV olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • balsamic vinegar
  • a pinch a salt

Wash the vegetables and the apple. Cut the radicchio and the fennel in thin slices and the apple in small cubes. Season with oil and vinegar, and with some salt, only if really needed. 

After-Holidays Non-diet 2: menu plan for the second day


A reader asked me why in this After-Holidays Non-diet I "impose" not to drink alcoholic beverages. The answer is simple: despite the wide debate on the health advantages and disadvantages of alcohol, a detail that is often overlooked is its caloric value. One gram of alcohol provides 7 kilocalories (kcal). A glass of wine (125 ml), provides about 90-95 kcal, a can of beer (330 ml) provides from 90 to 140 kcal and more, depending on the alcohol concentration. So in a period of "detoxification" and of reduced caloric intake, a few weeks without alcohol can help reduce the total calories of the diet.

Here is the menu for a second day of not diet.
In this second menu I have changed the order of lunch and dinner, to help those, for example, that bring lunch to work.


Menus and recipes for the second day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf)

  • when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: fresh fruit and nuts salad. Tea or coffee (preferably without sugar).
  • snack: a low-fat yogurt, a wholewheat rusk
  • lunch: brown rice with vegetables, mixed salad
  • snack: a pear
  • dinner: salmon steak with rosemary, steamed beets with oil and lemon, oregano croutons.
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 30 minutes of brisk walking. One hour of activity in the gym or other intense activity (swimming, biking, running, dancing, etc.).

Fresh fruit salad (serves 4)
  • an apple
  • a pear
  • a banana
  • juice of two oranges
  • walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, ... 80 g
  • dried apricots, 40 g
Wash the fruit and cut it into cubes. Add the orange juice, the chopped nuts and the dried fruit. Consume immediately, not to lose the vitamins. If needed, store in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container for up to a day.


Raw rice with vegetables (for 4 people)
  • brown rice, 320 g
  • broccoli, 600 g
  • a couple of anchovies, or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • EV olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • garlic, 1 clove
Boil the rice
Boil the broccoli (steamed or in a pressure cooker, but be sure not to overcook them). Drain.
Combine rice and broccoli. Season with olive oil and finely chopped  garlic and anchovies. Serve hot or cold, as desired.
To save time: cook a larger amount of rice. It keeps well in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.


Salmon with rosemary (for 1 person)

  • fresh salmon, a slice or a piece of fillet, 150 g
  • rosemary 3-4 sprigs, or a handful of leaflets
  • some water
Cover the bottom of a nonstick frying pan with lots of rosemary and one table spoon of water. Heat. Add the salmon steak and cook over high heat, covered, for about 5 minutes. Serve hot.
To save time: you can also prepare a larger amount of salmon. Store it in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container for up to 2 days. You can add rice or pasta to make it a main dish, or mix it with corn and mixed vegetables for a light fish salad.


Oregano croutons (for 1 person)

  • two slices of whole wheat bread (60 g)
  • oregano
  • EV olive oil, 1 table spoon

Preheat the oven (grill, 250°C). Season the slices of bread with some oregano and some EV olive oil. Grill for a few minutes. Consume hot.

After-Holidays Non-diet 1: information and menu plan for the first day


We say: Epiphany takes away all holidays ... and tomorrow it will be time to put ourselves back in shape. But how? A week or two of balanced nutrition to clean our bodies and maybe help us to lose some weight: lots of vegetables and fruit, no preserved food, no red meat, alternating fish, legumes and white meat, no alcohol, no sweets, lots of water and lots of physical activity.

Are we able to do it? I think so!

Here below you can find a general scheme, to help achieving a balanced diet. Then, every day I will publish some suggestions and daily menus with recipes and amounts. However, we are not all the same: a six-foot tall man will have to eat more than a five-foot tall women. Use your judgment to increase or decrease the amounts in the recipes.


BASE MENU, for one or two weeks

  • breakfast: a cereal, a dairy, half fruit
  • snack: one fruit
  • lunch: a source of protein, vegetables, wholemeal bread
  • snack: one fruit
  • dinner: a first course, vegetables
  • during the day: 8 glasses of water, in addition to that consumed the meal
  • physical activity: 30-60 minute walk every day. Gym, swimming, cycling, dancing, running, etc.. 2-3 times a week.


Follow the instructions closely. No exceptions allowed!

Eliminate all left over cakes and sweets: panettone, pandoro, panforte, nougat, cream and mascarpone. How? You can invite friends for one last night of partying. Or freeze them. Or give them away to those who have no weight nor cholesterol problems ....


Every day I will propose a specific menu with recipes.

Start from the first menu, shown below. Starting tomorrow, every day you will find here on the web site, a menu for the next day. Do not worry, it's not required to start on Monday, but once you start do not give up, for at least 7 consecutive days. And then if you want, you may continue for a second week.


Before starting, measure your weight (in the morning, on an empty stomach, after empting your bladder) and take a note of your weight. In one week, repeat this operation, to check if you have lost some weight.


Menu and recipes for the first day of "non-diet" (you can print the attached pdf file)

  •  when you wake up: 1 glass of water
  • breakfast: 125 g natural yoghurt (unsweetened), with half an apple or pear and 40 g of muesli (see recipe on this web site). Tea or coffee (preferably without sugar).
  • snack: two slices of fresh pineapple
  • lunch: lentil stew, salad with endive, oranges and pine nuts, wholemeal bread 50 g
  • snack: an apple
  • dinner: wholemeal fusilli with artichokes, grated carrots
  • drink 8 glasses of water between meals
  • physical activity: 30 minutes of brisk walking  


Stewed lentils (ingredients for 5 people)

  • onions, 2
  • dried lentils, 500 g
  • peeled tomatoes, 400 g
  • water
  • extra virgin olive oil (EV), 10 g + 5 g per portion
  • salt, pepper, bay leaves

Chop the onions, put it in the pan with a tablespoon of the olive oil. Sautee for few minutes, then add the dried lentils, the peeled tomatoes or tomato sauce or diced tomatoes, 1 liter water, two bay leaves, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 40 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary or taking off the cover to make it evaporate, if it is in excess.

Lentils can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or frozen (eg. in one portion containers, for later use).  Add one teaspoon of EV olive oil when serving.


Scarola salad with oranges and pine nuts (for 1 person)

  • lettuce, endive, or other leafy salads, 50 g
  • orange, one half
  • pine nuts, 1 tablespoon
  • vinegar / salt to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon

Wash the salad and cut it. Peel the orange and slice it. If it is organic, you can also use the peel. Toast the pine nuts. Mix all ingredients and season.


Wholemeal Fusilli with artichokes (for 4 people)

  • artichokes, n. 6
  • garlic, 2 cloves
  • red wine, 1 glass
  • extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • durum wheat pasta (e.g. fusilli), 320 g

Clean the artichokes and cut into thin slices. Sauté two cloves of chopped garlic in oil 20 g olive oil. Add the artichokes and stir fry adding occasionally a little red wine (one glass in total) and if necessary a bit of water. Cook covered until soft, then uncover and raise the heat to brown the artichokes. '

Cook 320 g of fusilli "al dente", drain and toss with artichokes, adding some Parmesan cheese.


Grated carrots, with lemon

  • carrots, 150 g
  • fresh lemon juice
  • extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon

Grate the carrots, season immediately with lemon juice and olive oil and a pinch of salt. 

2013: an important year...


2013: a very important year for our country. Let's try to make this year an important one for our health as well. Most of us have thought, at least once during these holydays: "tomorrow I'll go on a diet". But usually a diet is not necessary: it would be enough to move more and to eat (and drink) less sweets, less animal fats, less refined cereals. We should try to treat ourselves with this food only in special occasions and to reduce the portion sizes: we would do good to our health. No dieting would be needed,  just some attention to go back on track and to adopt a healthier life style.

We talked about this same issue one year ago. Did anything change? Did we succeed  pursuing our goals?

Below you can find attached my article (in Italian, sorry!) published in the last issue of the magazine of the Italian League against Cancer (Florence Section), where excess calories in the Holiday season are discussed! B utif you patiently wait for a few days, you'll see: a surprise is on its way...

Happy new year to all of you!

Dehydrated fruit: healthy food or junk food?


I often suggest to eat dried fruit as a healthy snack, instead of cookies, cakes, pastries, etc.. I include in the term "dried fruit" the oily nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews ...) as well as sweet dehydrated fruit (raisins, figs, dates, apricots ... ).

All of these are high-calorie foods,I agree: the first because they are rich in fat, the latter because they are rich in sugars. But fats are the "good" ones (mostly unsaturated) and sugars are sugars naturally present in fruits and not refined sugar added during commercial processing. At least this is what I thought, what I took for granted ...
But you should never take anything for granted and we must always keep our eyes open. In the last two or three years more and more often it might happen to see, even in retail stores, small bags of nuts of all kinds, apples, pears, exotic fruits, berries. Excellent! I can recommend "normal" foods, that can be bought easily, and are no longer niche products from organic, super natural stores. Or at least so I thought.
A few days ago, in the Esselunga supermarket, I ran into a beautiful bag of dried blueberries. Cool: I threw it right in cart, along with raisins nuts pistachios. But then I had an afterthought: I raise the bag, put on my reading glasses and try to read the label. I find the ingredients, but ... surprise, I was expecting to read "dried blueberries" or "dehydrated blueberries" and at best one preservative listed. But no, the list is long and not easy to interpret, but more or less these are the ingredients:

  • blueberries
  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • sugar
  • flavoring
  • citric acid
  • sunflower seed oil
  • preservative: potassium sorbate

Wow: corn syrup, and in particular high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS): this is the sugar used to sweeten soft drinks and is nowadays mentioned as a major contributor to the wave of obesity that is hitting hard on a great part of the world, with its devastating consequences on health. Many countries are taxing these beverages, to try to reduce production and consumption, and so what does the industry do? Moves sugar into products so far considered healthy ... what a move!

So now, what do I recommend to my friends / relatives / patients / clients? The dried fruit is an exceptional source of micronutrients and bioactive components. A recent study shows that, for example in cherries, the antioxidant characteristics of the fruit vary depending on the type of processing, but varying degrees of activity remain also in the transformed product ( Antioxidants for the eyes, the skin, and to fight free radicals; mineral for bones, blood and good mood... Should I now only recommend supplements? In some cases they can be useful, but I will continue to suggest to pour a handful of cranberries or blueberries in the muesli in the morning, or to keep them handyocket for those moments of crisis ...

My reaction to this discovery was a bit irrational and coward. Instead of better investigating to see what other products of this type were available in the supermarket, and if "no added sugar" variants were available as well, I quickly put back the bag on the shelf and I walked away. I was ashamed of myself, since I stopped to meditate on a food that now certainly classify as junk-food. But I should have waited and devoted a little longer time to this issue. I promise that I will, at the earliest opportunity ....

My suggestion? Read the food label and choose a product with no added sugars. If you by bulk products ask the retailer, that must have the appropriate information.

You could also make your own dehydrated fruit, with a regular oven or with a food dehydrator.

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