That dreaded time of year is here again – swimsuit season. I have helped countless people lose weight, including myself, and despite many new and radical diets, the science still points to one principle: To lose weight, expend more calories than you eat. Sounds simple, right? Nope. What this doesn’t take into account are cravings, lack of motivation, hormones, metabolism, boredom, emotions, workplace and social saboteurs… Should I continue? Unfortunately, many experience the yo-yo effect, losing weight, gaining it back and having to start over again. For lasting weight loss, small changes must be made and maintained over time for true behavior change – and to end the weight loss/regain cycle.
Research from the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, points to a variety of factors. The average weight loss for those on the registry is 66 pounds (range 30 to 300 pounds), maintained for an average 5.5 years (range 1 to 66 years). Most participants report maintaining a low calorie, low fat diet and four common trends, 1) eating breakfast, 2) getting on the scale at least once weekly, 3) watching fewer than 10 hours of television each week, and 4) exercising – participants exercised one hour/day on average.  Noted early in the research, once weight loss was maintained for 2-5 years the chance for longer-term maintenance improved dramatically. Not surprisingly, those who did regain weight reported significant decline in physical activity, increased consumption of calories from fat, and decreased restraint in food choice. [2, 3]
So, how can you put these principles into practice? Get moving, fill up on healthful foods that are generally lower calorie – particularly fruits and vegetables – and make small, sustainable changes!
Spring is in the air, and this easy and elegant tartine features some of the season’s finest flavors. Enjoy this open-faced sandwich as a meal in itself, or make miniature versions using your favorite baguette. Simply toast the bread, spread with tangy fromage blanc, and top with delicate spring pea shoots and thinly shaved USA Pears gathered into pretty curls.
Spring Tartine with Shaved Pears, Fromage Blanc, and Pea Shoots
4 slices of your favorite artisanal bread, about ¾ inch thick
8 ounces fromage blanc goat cheese (or other spreadable goat cheese)
1 cup (gently packed) pea shoots or other delicate spring greens
2 firm USA Pears, such as Bosc or Anjou, cut from the core and very thinly sliced on a mandoline
olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toast the bread until it begins to lightly brown on the edges and spread each slice with a generous layer of the fromage blanc. Next, top each toast with a small handful of loosely gathered pea shoots. Follow the pea shoots with the thinly sliced pears, curling or overlapping them in an attractive way. Lastly, drizzle the toasts with olive oil and sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer the tartines to a platter and serve immediately.
Do you have company coming for Easter brunch? Alongside the ham and asparagus, serve these delightfully unique savory scones. Honey-sweet pears, nutty buckwheat, and tangy Gouda cheese are a match made in heaven. Offer the scones with a side of fig jam and watch how quickly they disappear.
Pear, Buckwheat, and Gouda Scones with Fig Jam
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup buckwheat flour
¼ cup sugar
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
6 ounces firm, aged gouda cheese, grated
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Red Anjou or Bosc, small dice
¾ cup buttermilk (plus 2 tablespoons more if necessary)
Fig jam, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and the cheese and pulse briefly 8 – 10 times, or until the mixture becomes crumbly. Transfer to a large bowl, add the diced pears, and stir gently to combine. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, gently bring the mixture together until just combined, adding more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be moist and crumbly, but not sticky. Turn the scone dough out onto a lightly floured board and using floured hands, gently press into a circle about ¾ inch tall. Using a 2 to 3 inch floured biscuit cutter or glass, cut as many scones as you can from the dough and gently transfer them to a baking sheet, leaving at least one inch of space between each scone. Gather the remaining dough and press into a circle again, continuing to cut out scones until all of the dough has been used up. Bake the scones for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Allow the scones to cool for at least 15 minutes and serve with the fig jam.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus baking Yield: 8-12 scones
Did you know that many varieties of USA Pears are delicious when not yet ripe? Red and Green Anjou Pears are a perfect example. Though they might not seem ready to eat, they are already full of juicy pear flavor with a great, lightly crunchy texture. That makes unripe Anjous the perfect addition to salads and slaws.
This tasty salad is full of crisp, colorful vegetables and sweet Red Anjou Pears. Toss it with my almond butter-based dressing (sweetened with dates instead of refined sugar), and enjoy it as a quick lunch or an easy dinner side.
Crunchy Vegetable and Pear Salad
For the Almond Butter – Date Dressing:
3 tablespoons unsalted almond butter
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
½ cup water
½ teaspoon sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Set the dressing aside until ready to use.
For the Salad:
4 packed cups chopped cabbage (red and/or green)
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced thinly on a diagonal
1 bunch watercress
2 firm USA Pears, such as Red Anjou, thinly sliced
¼ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients except for the almonds. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the almonds over the top and serve.
This Valentine’s Day, love your heart! Have you heard of phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants? Phenols and flavonoids are families of phytonutrients, nonessential nutrients found in plant foods that provide color, flavor, and health benefits, particularly as antioxidants. In the body, antioxidants inhibit molecules that cause damage to body cells. Because of these antioxidants and other nutrients, increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk for many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Does this mean pears are good for your heart?
Well, a systematic review of pears and health published in the November/December 2015 issue of Nutrition Today supports what I’ve been saying all along. To be specific, pears contain many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C (an antioxidant!), potassium, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants – in particular, pears provide between 27 and 41mg of phenolic compounds per 100 grams (1 small pear). Many antioxidants are found in pears, and those with high phenolic and flavonoid contents – such as the anthocyanin in the skin of red pears – had significantly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Does this mean that pears may fight heart disease? It’s possible. One study by Mink et al included in the review found that dietary intake of foods rich in flavonoids, particularly pears and apples, was associated with a reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.
Did you know that the Anjou and Red Anjou pear was recently certified as a Heart-Healthy Food by the American Heart Association? So this Valentine’s Day when you and your loved ones are surrounded by love and candy hearts, do something good for your actual heart and eat a pear!
This super simple compote is a beautiful and delicious way to preserve some of fall’s fading flavors. You’ll make a simple infusion which combines the unique flavor of Earl Grey tea with vanilla and orange, and then simply stir in sugar and fresh pears. Serve this compote over yogurt or ricotta for a delightful breakfast or snack, spoon it over vanilla ice cream, or try it atop crostinis spread with your favorite soft cheese.
Pear Compote with Earl Grey & Vanilla
1 cup boiling water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
¾ cup sugar
3 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Comice or Red Anjou, small dice
Place the tea bags into the cup of boiling water and steep for 2 to 3 minutes to make a very strong tea. Remove the teabags and discard. Peel two long strips of zest from the orange using a vegetable peeler. Stack them on top of one another and slice them on a diagonal into very thin strips. Slice the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a medium saucepan. To the same saucepan add the tea, orange zest strips and vanilla paste, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 5 – 7 minutes or until reduced by half. Once reduced, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes (but no longer) to lightly caramelize the sugar. Stir in the diced pears, cover, and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes until the pears are just tender. Allow to cool for one hour and then transfer to a pint jar, being sure the pears are submerged in the syrup, and refrigerate (the compote will thicken considerably as it cools). Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal illness that causes discomfort/pain, constipation or diarrhea, and sometimes bloating and gas, is estimated to affect 10% to 20% of the world’s population. The cause is unknown, but genetics, diet, and stress play a role. For some patients, a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) has been successful for decreasing symptoms. FODMAPs is a fancy way of saying tiny carbohydrate molecules that our naturally occurring gut bacteria like to eat (ferment). Common FODMAP foods include fruit, fiber, sugars/sweeteners, dairy, wheat, garlic, onions, and legumes. When eaten in excess, bacteria eat these carbohydrates and release acids and gas that may cause symptoms for some people.
A common misconception is that people with IBS symptoms cannot eat these foods; however, cutting out three food groups, fruit, grain and dairy, is not healthy! Indeed, nutrition professionals are constantly encouraging people to eat more plant foods. The truth is that every gut is different and some people benefit from a reduction in some of these foods, whereas others show no improvement. Because these food groups contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and phytonutrients that may fight disease, it is best for those with symptoms to experiment with these foods and look for improvement. In the end, eating nutritiously will improve overall wellbeing and health.
Here is a quick quesadilla recipe that makes great use of leftover pork, ripe autumn pears, and cheddar cheese. The combination of these three ingredients is so delicious, it just might become your favorite afternoon snack. These quesadillas are a great use of leftover ribs from your favorite barbecue joint. If you’ve never made your own barbecue sauce, try your hand at Pear Barbecue Sauce with Chiles and Spice to use for this recipe and double the pear punch!
6 ounces cooked, shredded pork
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, plus more for dipping
4 flour tortillas (8-inch size)
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 large, ripe USA Pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, sliced
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the shredded pork with the barbecue sauce and microwave for 1 ½ – 2 minutes to warm. Set aside until ready to use.
Lay out two of the tortillas in a single layer on a sheet pan. Sprinkle the tortillas with half of the cheese. Divide the warm pork between the two tortillas. Next, arrange the pear slices around the tortillas as evenly as possible, and then top the pear slices with the remaining cheese. Lastly, place the remaining two tortillas atop the cheese layer and transfer to the oven.
Bake the quesadillas for 10-12 minutes, or until the tortillas begin to crisp lightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and slice into quarters. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately with more barbecue sauce for dipping.
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons walnuts
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn Sandwich
½ USA Pear, sliced
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Sliced walnuts for topping
4 slices of Dave’s Killer Bread
Add ingredients to make the pesto to high speed blender or food processor in the order displayed. Blend until smooth. Toast bread until light brown. Spread pesto on toasts. Add sliced pears and top with cheese and walnuts. Serve immediately.
Here is a perfect no-fuss summer dinner for a busy evening. These pork and pear lettuce wraps require just 20 minutes from start to finish and are full of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors. Serve them with a simple and fresh cucumber salad dressed with rice wine vinegar for a lovely and complete meal.
12 cup-shaped lettuce leaves, from about one head lettuce
1 pound ground pork
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons grated ginger
3 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1-2 teaspoons fish sauce, to your taste
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Anjou or Green Bartlett, small dice
½ cup roasted and salted cashews, roughly chopped
4 scallions, sliced thinly
Pick 12 nice lettuce leaves, wash them, shake or spin dry, and place in the refrigerator to crisp. In a wide sauté pan over medium heat, cook the ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Once the pork is cooked through, transfer to a medium bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan (any additional fat can be discarded). Reduce the heat to medium low and add the chopped shallots to the hot fat. Fry the shallots, stirring often, until golden brown. Add the grated ginger and and stir to combine with the shallots.
Next, carefully pour in the mirin. Allow it to cook for about one minute, or until it forms a syrupy glaze. Return the pork to the pan along with the lime juice and fish sauce. Stir well to combine and taste for seasoning. The fish sauce will act as the salt in this recipe. Allow the mixture to cook for just one minute more to be sure it is thoroughly heated. Lastly, turn off the heat and add the diced pear and the cashews (you may reserve some for garnish, if desired). Divide the mixture between the lettuce cups and garnish with the scallions and remaining cashews. Serve with your favorite Asian chili sauce.