Dr. Gourmet's Health & Nutrition Bites

Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.

Back in September I wrote about a study that looked at ways to influence the types of foods people purchase when they are using SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as "food stamps"). The authors discovered, somewhat predictably, that those who were prevented from purchasing sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and other unhealthy foods with their benefits might have reduced their intake of those foods by a small amount, but they didn't consume any more fruits and vegetables even when they were given financial incentives to purchase them.

Today's study approaches the issue of fruit and vegetable purchasing from another angle: that of supply (J Acad Nutr Diet 2017;117:58-68). In areas where larger grocery stores are in short supply and thus the access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited, farmer's markets are being encouraged as ways to benefit not only the community members but also the farmers themselves. While farmer's markets have long been primarily cash-based, more and more often these days they are able to accept SNAP payments using EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards. When EBT cards are accepted at the local farmers' market, do SNAP recipients purchase more fruits and vegetables? And does that have any effect on the SNAP users' consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages? Using welfare benefits at farmer's markets »

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Featured Recipes

Molasses Glazed Salmon

Black treacle is the name that the British give to molasses and the venerable Lyle's brand is the gold standard. My brother gave me a tin of it for Christmas and it is a lovely addition to almost any glaze or marinade.

Balanced recipes are a combination of flavors: sweet, salty, savory, bitter, and sour. Hitting at least three notes in a recipe is the key to balancing your recipe and this one strikes all of them - sweet and a bit bitter from the molasses, savory from the salmon and paprika, a bit of sour from the vinegar and just a touch of salt. This glaze will work with almost any fish or meat.

Saffron Tuna Noodle Casserole

This Saffron Tuna Noodle Casserole is an upscale version of the classic, with luxurious flavors and plenty of things to feel good about, including great protein, quality carbohydrates, and lots of fiber.

Ginger Fish Soup

This is another recipe that was inspired by a basket of ingredients given to me by my brother's family for Christmas.

The basket contained the rice noodles. These are common and I have posted a fair number of recipes on the Dr. Gourmet Web site using rice noodles. I love them because they are so easy to cook: the noodles take all of about five minutes in boiling water. They also make a great vehicle for so many terrific flavors. (Note that we do particularly like the Annie Chun's brand brown rice version because they contain more fiber.) The Christmas Basket Challenge, Part 3 »

Spicy Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Last Monday was the first week of the 2017 Christmas Challenge and this recipe comes from the basket of ingredients that my brother gave me that included some Busseto Robusto Spicy Dry Salami. While I will occasionally eat cured meats, I don't very often because of the amount of salt. An ounce usually contains about 350 milligrams of sodium, and that adds up since an ounce is not a lot of meat. The Busseto is even higher at 500 milligrams per ounce. That's a lot and tasting this it is indeed spicy along with all that salt.

Roasted Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce

This is a simple and not so simple a dish. On the one hand, it is easy, but on the other it relies on someone else's sauce. I worked on this recipe because my brother gave me the sauce as part of a Christmas gift, challenging me to make something using each of the ingredients.

That chili sauce is Mae Ploy brand and at first glance is mostly sugar and salt. A lot if you consider using it just as a sauce but looking at the label there is one of the worst pictures of roasted chicken that I have seen on a package. It does have the requisite disclaimer "Serving Suggestion" and it seemed like a good suggestion to me. How good (or bad) could this be?

Porcini Cornbread

This cornbread was inspired by a Christmas gift from my brother.

I looked in the basket that he gave me and thought about some of the flavors, and the idea of adding the aromatic porcini and truffle oil to the stone ground cornmeal was appealing. The oil tasted a bit subtle - too subtle to support the cornmeal on its own, but this got me to thinking about using dried porcini dust.

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes are a perfect side dish for almost any main course. The best part is that they are lower in sodium because the goat cheese is salted but the tangy and umami flavor of the cheese really helps balance the flavor.