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Laura Rosenberg RD, Culinary Nutritionist

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Welcome to Green Napkin Nutrition

Reliable nutrition information is in demand and we're just the professionals to assist you. Whether you are a restaurant looking to provide your diners with the healthy options they are looking for, or a consumer trying to improve your health, Green Napkin Nutrition can help. We tailor our services to fit your needs, from menu planning to recipe development to cooking classes and nutrition education. Our Registered Dietitians and culinary professionals will connect wellness to your plate, one bite at a time.

It’s impossible not to notice the enormous amount of gluten free products everywhere lately. Whether it’s in the grocery store, convenience store, vending machine or restaurant – it’s hard not to think about trying these products. After all, they’re healthier than other foods, right? Think again. If you have celiac disease, then yes- it’s essential for your health. For weight loss? Not so much.

Having lunch with a friend the other day, we noticed a gluten free section on the menu. This brought up the subject of the virtues of gluten free diets. “So much healthier!” my friend exclaimed, and was excited to tell me about a new snack food she  found. “It is really healthy and so delicious”, she said. Was it? Delicious it was,  but healthy- well… let’s see.

glutinoThose with gluten intolerance may also feel some relief by avoiding gluten, a wheat protein. But the average person does not need to cut gluten out of their diet, despite what the media and food manufacturers would have you believe.

Of course, lots of gluten containing products are unhealthy, especially if they are refined and processed. But so are gluten free products that are heavily processed, and most of them are.

Let’s just look at the yogurt covered gluten free pretzels to the left.

You’ll notice that there are 150 calories, 7g fat (6g of which are saturated), and 12 g of sugar (that’s 3 tsp)- and just in 9 tiny pretzels. These little morsels are so tasty and impossible to resist (thanks to those clever food scientists) I could inhale that amount in approximately 30 seconds. Now look at the servings per package. This small 5.5 oz bag (yes you read it right) contains 5 portions- according to the manufacturer. Now, I ask you- who decided that? And who could possibly resist eating the entire bag? Someone with intense discipline (maybe Gandhi?), but the average mortal will be wolfing down this entire bag- along with 750 calories, 35g fat and 60 grams of sugar (15 tsp!). Ouch. Still think this is a healthy product?

Now take a look at the ingredients.  Sugar, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin,  corn starch, potato starch, palm oil and a host of other unfamiliar ingredients- none of which your grandma would recognize. And- it’ll set you back over $4 bucks to boot.

So, before you jump on the gluten free bandwagon- check out the the nutrition facts panel and then decide if it’s worth it. Maybe the new nutrition facts panel will help clarify these confusing and misleading labels in the future.

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Freekeh Pilaf

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Roasted green wheat. Sounds compelling, doesn’t it? While quinoa is the new whole grain sweetheart, Freekeh is the newcomer. Even the name is intriguing. Don’t be afraid to try this exotic sounding grain. Not only is it a nutrition powerhouse, it’s truly delicious. Similar to bulgar wheat, Freekeh is harvested young, an immature green wheat that is roasted and then cracked.  This gives it a roasted, nutty flavor and a wonderful alternative to other whole grains such as farro, millet, amaranth and buckwheat. It’s nice to have healthy choices.

Freekeh is perfect as a side dish and also stands alone as a main. Maybe it’s that process of harvesting it while young and green that gives it it’s nutrient edge. High in fiber, protein and nutrients like the  antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin (eye health benefits). It’s also a low glycemic food. This powerful combination can promote weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and promote GI health all in one bowl. It is not gluten free though, for those with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Here’s a recipe for those looking for a satisfying plant-based meal, or as the main event on your plate with a side of lean animal protein. Be careful though, it’s so good you may have trouble with portion control!

Freekeh Pilaf with Beluga Lentils and Roasted Yellow Tomatoes/Garlic

First roast tomatoes and garlic in olive oil in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until just starting to brown. Next prepare lentils and set aside.  In a wide, deep skillet or pot, sauté chopped onion and carrot in a Tbsp olive oil. Add Freekeh and toss to coat. Roast in pan for a few minutes to bring out flavor. Add the appropriate amount of veg broth (follow package directions for the amount you are using). Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just about done (about 15 minutes). You may add some chopped green veggies at this point for a nutrition boost. Stir and let cook a few minutes longer until veggies are done. Season with  salt and fresh ground pepper as desired. Top with lentils and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.