Setting the Table for Celiacs: Q&A with Celiac Disease Program’s Nutritionist

University of Maryland Medical Center nutritionist Pam Cureton answers questions about celiac disease and gluten-free diets.

pam-cureton-rdQ: What is gluten?

A: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. These grains in any form must be avoided. Foods labeled gluten free are safe to eat but if a food item is not labeled gluten free look for these six words in the ingredient list to see if it contains a gluten containing ingredient: Wheat, Rye, Barley, Malt, Brewer’s yeast and Oat (only use oats that are labeled gluten free).

Q: What exactly is wrong with gluten?

A: The problem with gluten is that it is not completely broken down into smaller amino acids that can be easily absorbed by the intestine. For the majority of people this presents no problem at all but in individuals with celiac disease, the body sees this protein as a toxin and this sets off a string of reactions leading to intestinal villous damage.

Q: What cross contamination problems should I look for in the kitchen?

A: Preventing gluten free foods from coming in contact with gluten containing foods make the difference in your guest enjoying a wonderful holiday meal or becoming ill and leaving early. Guest with celiac disease cannot simply take the croutons out of a salad or eat the meat from the wheat bread sandwich. Gluten free foods can be contaminated by using the same spoon to mix or serve foods, putting wheat products next to the gluten free dips, “double dipping” the knife into a condiment then gluten containing product then back into the condiments or using the same toaster.

Q: Can you taste the difference between gluten-free foods and their gluten counterparts?

A: Gluten free foods have come a long way in their taste and texture to be very close to their gluten containing counterpart. There are so many great tasting gluten free products on the market today that no one should be eating something they do not like.

Q: What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease:

A: Celiac disease can present itself in many different forms. Untreated, celiac disease causes multi-system complications such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, iron deficiency anemia, decreased bone density, failure to thrive, short stature, and behavior problems. If you have any concerns, please check with your primary care provider before you start a gluten free diet.

Q: I have severe reactions when I eat bread, such as stomach bloating and pain in my joints. Does this mean I could have celiac or gluten sensitivity?

A: We recommend that you see your primary care provider and ask to be tested for celiac disease. However, do not start a gluten free diet before this testing is done. The first step is a simple blood test for screening. If all the tests are complete and you do not have celiac disease, then try a gluten free diet to see if you improve as it may be non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Q: How common is late-onset celiac disease and is there any way to know if other family members are at risk of developing it later in life?

A: It is possible to develop celiac disease at any age. You may have had celiac disease for many years before being diagnosed because symptoms may have been attributed to other conditions or you may not have had any symptoms with the active disease. We recommend that all first degree relatives be screened for celiac disease after the relative had been diagnosed and if negative at that time, repeat the screening labs every 2-3 years or if symptoms appear.

Q: Is there a cure for Celiac Disease?

A: Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is the gluten free diet. In most cases, this treatment works very well but it can be expensive, socially isolating and, at times, difficult to follow. Also, there are people that do not respond completely to the diet or take up to 2 years to heal after diagnosis. For these people, additional therapies are need to prevent additional complications of celiac disease.


Learn more about the Celiac Disease Program or call 410-328-6749 to make an appointment.



Return of the University Farmer’s Market

By: Michelle Logan and Adrian Rabin, Editorial Interns

On average, food travels 1,500 miles from farm to table. Locally-sourced foods travel 25 times less far—an average of 60 miles—which minimizes fuel consumption, air pollution and associated diseases. It also allows farmers to let their food ripen appropriately, maximizing both the nutritional content and taste of their produce.

Every Tuesday, the University Plaza Park is filled with bustling stands selling organic delicacies, locally grown fruits and other specialty items that give patrons the opportunity to fill their meals with environmentally conscious and unique options. For the past seven years, the University Farmers Market has provided local Baltimore businesses the opportunity to sell their wares and bring their mission to the greater Baltimore community.

market vendor

Chef Emem Moody of Infused Spreads takes this opportunity seriously. Her small business is dedicated to creating thoughtful products with extraordinary flavors–those of the likes of Raspberry Jalapeno and Balsamic Onion. Based in Glen Burnie, Infused Spreads also has wholesale accounts at local retailers such as Eddie’s of Roland Park. Moody sees her business as a way to bring variety to the local small business culture.

Patrons of the Farmer’s Market can be seen sampling every flavor of Moody’s spreads, picking through fresh produce, or sipping iced coffee from glass mason jars–an effort led by Cooperative Coffee. Participating in their first year of business, the two co-owners pride themselves in motivating the next generation of coffee and pastry purveyors. Cooperative Coffee has no permanent location, but instead brings locally sourced beverages and homemade baked goods to each event they attend. Co-owner Brendan Burns recalls his motivation to start a new business resulting from his dislike of seeing trash cans crowded with paper cups.

coopcoffee lids

Cooperative Coffee made its vendor debut at the University Farmers Market on May 19, 2015, bringing to the community a coffee shop atmosphere while providing zero waste. Colorful mason jars are sold with their beverages for one extra dollar. The dollar spent is used as a deposit, which is then returned to the customer if he or she decides to return the jar.

“Instead of returning their jar, a customer may choose from our menu of jar accessories we have had custom made by local crafts folk,” Burns said. “We love helping people enjoy their beverages both fashionably and sustainably!”

Burns hopes that with locally and ethically produced foods, their business can help educate the community on preparing healthy and organic food—most of which is accomplished through face-to-face interaction at farmers markets.

Check out the University Farmers Market for more locally sourced and culturally conscious options. The University Farmers Market is open on Tuesdays in May – November from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm at the University Plaza Park, located across from the University of Maryland Medical Center’s main campus.

Visit our Farmer’s Market information page for payment options, which include Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Women Infants and Children (WIC) vouchers.

Marching Toward a Healthier Lifestyle

By: Andrea Rizkallah, Editorial Intern

nutrition month_final

By March, New Year’s resolution motivation may be dwindling down, which is why it’s the perfect time to celebrate National Nutrition Month and get back into a healthy lifestyle.

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to promote informed food choices and habitual exercise.

Here are some small changes you can make that will have a big impact on your health:

  • Pack on the go healthy snacks such as apple slices
  • Eat seafood twice a week
  • Visit a physician to get the best advice for you
  • Use an app or website to keep track of your progress

If you need an interactive approach to healthy eating, visit, and get to know the different food groups and other important information. It takes equal parts healthy eating and exercise to contribute to your overall health. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and kids need at least 60 minutes.

Some people may think the only form of exercise is running, so they shy away from physical activity. But, there are many ways to fit exercise into your life.

  • Many gyms now offer fitness classes such as Zumba, kickboxing, water aerobics and Pilates.
  • There are at-home videos that incorporate group activities and upbeat music to keep you motivated.
  • Even walking around the block for half an hour after dinner makes a big difference to your health.
  • Eat carbs before your workout to give you energy
  • Eat carbs with protein after a workout for muscle recovery

There are a number of blogs and magazines that have recipes to walk you through eating healthy. EatRight has tips and information categorized by audience; Men, women, kids and seniors can find specialized information on topics like food, health and fitness.

university farmers market lA great way to make buying fruits and vegetables fun is to visit a farmer’s market! And we have one right here! The University of Maryland Medical Center hosts a farmer’s market on Tuesdays from May through November from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Get more information at

So, if you’re looking for some motivation to make a lifestyle change or to keep pursuing your New Year’s resolutions, this is the month to do it!

Making Heart Health a Year-Round Priority

By: Hope Gamper, Editorial Intern

Heart Cardiogram 150858290

February and American Heart Month are ending, but just because March is around the corner doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about keeping your heart in tip-top shape.

The American Heart Association (AHA), whose mission is to fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and the UM Heart Center offer a series of lifestyle recommendations for optimizing your heart health all year round.

Move More

Working out regularly is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 times a week (if you can’t do 30 minutes at a time, you can add up 10-minute sessions throughout the day).

Also try working in exercise to your normal routine:

  • Instead of driving to the store, walk or bike.
  • Park in a spot farther from your destination.
  • Keep dumbbells near the remote so you can stay active while watching TV.

Skip the Snacks

What you eat is just as important as what you do. Swapping out foods heavy with added sodium and fat for nutrient-rich foods can help you manage your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Here is a list of foods to fix and foods to nix.

Fix more foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, including:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, barley and buckwheat
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Protein sources – poultry, fish and nuts

Nix processed foods and those that tend to be high in sodium and fat, including:

  • Sugary foods and beverages
  • Red meat
  • Deep fried foods or foods cooked in butter

Avoid Tobacco

Tobacco and other ingredients common in cigarettes frequently contribute to heart disease. Even secondhand smoke kills nearly 70,000 people each year.

The good news is that when you quit smoking you see short term benefits right away, and it only takes about 5 to 15 years to reduce stroke risk to that similar of a nonsmoker. There is still time to reverse the damage caused by tobacco and ensure that your heart keeps pumping for many years to come.

Click here for a list of Smoking Cessation Classes in your area.


Doctor Holding Heart 166695035

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths each year, making these types of incremental changes vital to reducing your risk of heart related illness and keeping your heart well for all of life’s challenges, in February or any other month.

Winter Storm Warning: Hibernation Ahead!

By Mary Beth Sodus, RD/LD,ACE-CPT/RYT
Personalized Bariatric Nutrition Coaching
Center for Weight Management and Wellness

With a few days notice that a snowstorm is on its way, you’ve probably had time to make a run to your local grocer to stock up on essentials and favorite foods. Like a bear who eats as much as possible to store up calories for a long hibernation.

Bears need those extra calories for an extended period of no eating or drinking, but most of us will not. We’re more likely to eat because we’re inside and bored.  Here are some tips to avoid setting a trap for yourself:

Healthy Hibernation Habits

  • Practice mindful eating. Ask yourself this question:  What am I really hungry for?
  • Think: Are you eating from emotional triggers or true physical appetite?
  • Pay attention to boredom eating versus physical hunger. Physical hunger builds gradually, occurs several hours after a meal and eating results in a feeling of satisfaction.
  • Boredom eating can be triggered by the sight or smell of food, watching cooking shows or just because something tastes good.

To avoid that winter weight:

  • Focus on healthy and wholesome stews, soups or chili with a lot of vegetables.
  • Pause between each bite to focus and enjoy the sensation of eating.
  • Cultivate a strong support system that includes family and friends that you can call on.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated. The human body is approximately 75 percent water and needs every drop to function, especially if you are outdoors.

As you hibernate from winter’s cold, snow and wind, know that you can stay healthy for the warmth of spring in Maryland.

Mary Beth Sodus is a registered dietitian and nutritionist and a personal trainer and expert in all things healthy.  She provides personalized bariatric nutrition coaching in the University of Maryland Center for Weight Management and Wellness. 


Mid-Term Fall Nutrition: Easy as ABC

By Mindy Athas, RD, CSO, LDN

Outpatient Oncology Dietitian

Has that initial back-to-school resolution to pack healthier lunches and make more nutritious choices throughout the day started to wear thin? Have autumn tasks and responsibilities and pre-holiday stress led you down the junk food trail? It’s time to get back into healthy habits before the festivities and post-holiday winter hibernation kick in.  So grab your notebook, pencil and calculator, and meet me for some Nutrition 101.

Reading: start gathering healthy recipes from friends, family, books, magazines and online sites. Two great resources for healthy eating include and  Head to the book store for the bargain cookbooks and look for words like “low-fat”, “heart-healthy” and “light or lite” recipes.  Or stop by the library and grab a handful of healthy eating cookbooks to peruse; if you find some keepers, you can always order the books online.  Cooking magazines include Cooking Light, Cooks Illustrated, and Bon Appétit, all of which also have online sites.  For more general healthy reading, check out,, and, all of which have printable general information handouts geared to the basics.

 For more detailed info and healthy eating plates and pyramids, see, and  

You may want to start an online or paper recipe journal or folder to keep all your healthy fall picks in one place.  For specific cancer-fighting foods, check out American Institute for Cancer Research’s , for a list of nutrition fact sheets, see the National Cancer Institute’s  and the American Cancer Society’s for cancer prevention nutrition strategies.

Writing: Jot down some weekly dinner ideas to help organize your food shopping list.  Start with protein but add in at least one meatless meal: good for your budget, your waistline and the environment!  Meatless meals can include beans, nuts, tofu or just a mixture of grains (think bean chili and pasta marinara).  Animal protein includes poultry, fish, eggs, and lean cuts of meats, but limit red and processed meats as much as possible. Then add vegetables (seasonal and local items should top the list), and finally a starch (if you even need one with all the wonderful root vegetables in season now).  Add fruit for a quick and easy dessert.

Check your local food stores’ weekly flyers for sales, which will change often, ensuring a nice food variety while helping you save money.  For some meal and menu ideas: which includes a weekly grocery list to print, with step-by-step photos and tips,  which includes a free email newsletter, and which has an A to Z foods list.

Remember to cut back on salt and salty ingredients and increase the amount of fruits or vegetables in the recipes.  Always aim to keep the base of your meal coming from plants: veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains.  Eat a rainbow of colors daily as well to ensure you get a myriad of different nutrients.  

School  Supplies: When making your fall food list, stick with some basics to keep in your kitchen all season. These include good quality olive oil (extra virgin), canola oil (expeller-pressed), balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar if you prefer), fresh garlic (don’t refrigerate), fresh herbs (which you can buy as plants and keep in a sunny window), dried herbs (curry powder, cinnamon, cumin), shallots and onions (organic if you can get them), a pepper mill for fresh ground pepper, and any other herbs and spices you like. 

Cutting back on salt at home will help you lower your salt threshold for when you eat out, encouraging better restaurant choices. Remember to pick what’s in season now, in your area:  in addition to a variety of apples, look for local pumpkins, gourds, pears, beans, turnips, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and honey.  Try acorn or butternut squash simply baked with some olive oil or real Maple syrup (which you can also buy locally and which is considered an antioxidant). 

For more seasonal eating information:, see Sustainable Table at , the Natural Resources Defense Council which has an Eat Local app for your phone,  which includes a listing of local markets and farms, and which has a complete annual harvest chart.  Taking a trip on a beautiful fall day to pick apples off the tree combines exercise, fun and sustainable eating: that’s putting your money where your mouth is!

New Teacher: don’t be afraid to try new foods! Check out the plethora of gourds, pumpkins, root vegetables, and colorful fruits showcased at the farmers’ markets this fall.  Don’t know what it is? Buy it and try it: your farmer or grocer will get you started. (Did you bring your recipe notebook?) Write down the names of unusual foods (Parsnip? Dragon fruit? Fiddleheads? Lychee?) so you can search recipes later.  Haven’t tried brown rice, amaranth, quinoa or chia seeds yet? Don’t be a flunky: get hip to the multitude of whole grains available at almost every supermarket.  Look for the words “100% whole”, “whole wheat,” “stone ground,” “multigrain” and “whole grain” on packages. Choose grains with the most fiber: aim for 3 grams per serving for breads and crackers, and 5 grams per serving for starches.  Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are also great fiber sources, and remember an apple for the teacher!  Some other nutrition superstars which always seem to be in season include mushrooms, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, pomegranates, and kale.   For other great healthy food ideas: , and

A is for Autumn: Eat plenty of fresh (local and seasonal) produce this fall. Choose 3 or more servings of vegetables daily and 2 or more servings of fruit daily. This is equivalent to about 2 cups daily of fruits and veggies combined.   For details, see

B is for Bread: think making your own bread is hard? You have mastered many difficult school subjects, so baking bread from scratch (or using your bread machine) is a veritable piece of cake!  Start with an easy basic recipe using a combo of all-purpose, bread and whole wheat flour.  Use up all those fresh apples and pears in muffins and fruit pies with added nuts to add healthy fats, fiber and protein.  Sprinkle in some oat bran or flax seed for crunch, and substitute some of the oil in the recipes with yogurt or applesauce.  Try this pear and granola muffin recipe from Martha Stewart, which includes whole grains and cinnamon:   

C is for Cooking: Think how great your home will smell with a big pot of creamy butternut squash soup (yum!) on the stove. Throw in some cinnamon and the neighbors will be coming by.  Cook large batches of soup, stew, chili, casseroles, quiche, or tomato sauce. Cool in shallow dishes, then freeze in small glass containers for a quick dinner. Make chili with beans or try a white chili with ground turkey or chicken. 

If you’ve never had fresh beets, try:,50300. And for a low-carb pasta swap, try spaghetti squash instead, with turkey meatballs:

For a twist on fresh pumpkin, consider a warm pumpkin salad over polenta: or stick with the traditional soup: where you can sub fresh pumpkins (look for the small round kind for cooking, not the big kind for carving at Halloween) instead of canned.

Watch your Math: Remember to watch portion sizes, added fats and sugars. With all the tasty fresh fall produce, you won’t need many calorie-rich condiments.  Cream, butter, excess oil, sweet sauces, salad dressings, cheese and fried items can easily overload your calorie budget.  Seek lower or no-sugar-added items and try making your own salad dressing with olive oil, vinegar and mustard or a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Retrain your taste buds to appreciate the delicate flavors found naturally in fresh foods. Remember fresh garlic, shallots and onions in dishes for a pop of flavor and substitute fresh herbs for dried as able.  Use the plate method: half your plate (and try to use a smaller diameter plate) with vegetables and fruits, then ¼ whole grains and ¼ protein foods. For more ideas on adding produce:   Continue to add daily physical activity to your life: just walking 10 minutes after each meal can help keep your body healthy and relieve stress.  Try sleeping in a dark room at night for a solid 7- to 8-hour stretch and laughing more, both of which can strengthen your immune system.  For more healthy living ideas: and

Congratulations on passing your Mid-Term Fall Eating class: enjoy all of autumn’s bounty, and it’s OK to encourage others to copy.


UMMS “Spring Into Good Health” Event Gets Shoppers Dancing in the Center Court at Mondawmin Mall

By Sharon Boston

UMMC Media Relations Manager

Each spring, the University of Medical System (UMMS) hosts “Spring Into Good Health,” a free event attended by hundreds of people who receive medical screenings (such as blood pressure and cholesterol), talk one-on-one with University of Maryland Medical System health professionals and pick up information on men’s and women’s health, child safety, nutrition and more.

This year, the UMMS Community Outreach and Advocacy Committee wanted to put a focus on fitness and hosted a dance party right in the middle of Mondawmin Mall!

Several guests commented that they didn’t realize that fitness could be so fun, and that they plan to try to exercise more and eat better, thanks to the information that they picked up at the UMMS event.

Take a look at the some of the line dancing that got people of all ages up and moving.

 “The dancing was really upbeat and lively, it really got people moving,” said Donna Jacobs, UMMS senior vice president for government relations. “Several people told us that they’d like to see even more fun physical activities next year.”

Five of the 12 hospitals in the University of Maryland Medical System took part in the event — the University of Maryland Medical Center, Maryland General Hospital, Kernan Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Hospital, University Specialty Hospital and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. The event was also sponsored by Maryland Physicians Care, Total Health Care, Coppin State University School of Nursing and Radio One, Baltimore.

Maintaining Your Waistline When You Travel

By Ellen Loreck, MS, RD, LDN
Director, Clinical Nutrition Services

How do you eat healthy and maintain your weight when you have long flights ahead and eat out almost every night? Due to the limited variety of food on flights, many of us indulge in numerous fast foods before boarding. Also, we may choose beverages that can be dehydrating. Prior to getting on a plane, it is important to remember these tips.


Dehydration is a concern when you are flying. Since there is a lower level of oxygen available, you breathe faster and increase your water loss. It is best to try to drink 8-16 ounces of water prior to flight departure and aim for at least 8 ounces for every hour on the flight. You may want to consider limiting alcoholic or caffeinated beverages that may contribute to dehydration. Remember that you cannot take any liquid beverages through security so hydrating is important prior to getting to the airport.

Pack Snacks!

Most airlines have cut back on serving food on planes. Packing healthy snacks from home helps you stay on track with your healthy eating and are friendly to your wallet. Here are suggestions of ideas to bring in your carry-on that are high protein, low fat, lower in sugar and contain fiber:

  • Nuts
  • Small package of water-packed tuna with whole grain crackers
  • Rice cakes and low fat cheese
  • Fat-free pudding
  • Protein bar
  • Low fat granola with at least 3 g fiber
  • ½ peanut butter sandwich
  • Raw veggies and small container of hummus

If choosing fast food at the airport, remember:

1. Aim for filling half your plate with vegetables or fruit by looking for salads and broth-based soups.

2. Limit high-calorie condiments, such as cream in coffee, mayo or full-calorie salad dressing.

3. Select grilled, steamed, stir-fried or poached menu items.

4. Be careful with smoothies and coffee drinks since many of these items contain more calories than a meal.

5. Limit fried foods, cream-based sauces and foods covered with cheese.

6. Many fast food restaurants have nutrition facts for their menu items so that you keep track of your calorie intake.

7. Check out the map of the airport before your flight for healthy food options near your gate.

Indulge Wisely!

1. Remember not to confuse hunger with boredom or anxiety.

2. Enjoy local foods and cuisine while on vacation.

3. Forgive yourself if you overindulge one day.

4. Make sure to sit down and really savor foods versus eat them just because you are hungry.


How to Raise a Veggie-Eating Kid

By Faith Hicks, MS, RD, LD/N, CSP

Senior Clinical Dietitian

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in The Baltimore Sun 03/07/12, in the Taste section and online.

How is it that some kids will eat whatever is put in front of them, while others live on hot dogs and chicken nuggets and have a phobia for vegetables, especially anything green?  As adults, we know that we ourselves probably should be eating more fruits and vegetables, and we would like to raise our kids to have healthier eating habits and a varied diet right from the start.  There are a number of ways parents and other adults can promote good eating habits from early childhood and throughout the teen years.

Make a regular “date night” – a family dinner date night, that is!

One of the best ways of promoting good eating habits in children is to make eating meals together a priority. This is something that often gets lost in the shuffle of soccer practice and scout meetings, but try to identify at least one or two nights a week to have dinner as a family.  Children who are raised having regular family meals generally consume more servings of fruits and vegetables and develop a liking for a wider variety.  They also tend to have a diet lower in fat and are less likely to become overweight than children from families who eat on the run.  From the start, toddlers mimic their parents’ eating habits.  So a parent who includes fruits and vegetables at mealtimes sets the example that these foods are tasty and that consuming them is the norm and is expected.

There are other important benefits of having meals as a family. Children whose families dine together regularly develop better language skills.  During dinner conversation, they are exposed to a larger vocabulary. They become adept at participating in a higher level conversation.  Another benefit of family meals extends into the teen years, teens that regularly have dinner with the family get better grades and are less likely to try drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.  It seems that mealtimes help foster a sense of connectedness within the family and when parents are tuned into their teens, teens are less tempted to dabble in risky behavior. 

Lighten up and don’t turn mealtime into a “pressure cooker”

Another way of fostering a varied diet is to offer new foods several times and without undue pressure.  It may take more than several times trying a new food for a toddler or preschooler to accept it, so don’t give up after the first try! Place a small portion of each food that you are having on your child’s plate.  When they see that you eat it, the expectation is set that they will like it, too.  Beware of trying too hard to persuade a child to eat because this might backfire! It can send the message that the food item is not very appealing.  For example, if a child is rewarded for eating green beans by getting a cookie, the parent sends a message that green beans are yucky.  The child may think “that must not taste very good if I have to be bribed with treat.”  Rather, make a light-hearted request for the child to just to try “just a bite.”

Involve kids in food shopping and preparation.

Children and teens are more interested in foods they have selected, prepared, or even grown at home.  Wander the produce section of the grocery store with your child and let him choose a new vegetable or fruit to try each week.  Buy a colorful, child-oriented cookbook to provide ideas for foods you can prepare together.  Cooking together provides an opportunity to learn other skills, such as fractions.  Even small children can be safely involved in cooking activities such as washing produce or putting toppings on a veggie pizza. Consider planting even a small garden and check out seed displays with your child. Seed companies sell kid-friendly vegetables in packets bearing very appealing pictures. Children who are drawn to miniature things may be fascinated by picking cherry tomatoes or pulling from the ground the baby carrots planted earlier in the spring. Brussels sprouts might be a little more fun to eat once you have seen how they seem to march in lines as they grow from the plant’s stem! 

In summary, the key to raising a “good eater” is having fun with food together, right from the start.

The Food of Love

By Mindy Athas, RD, CSO, LDN
Outpatient Dietitian, Nutritionist & Certified Oncology Specialist
Greenebaum Cancer Center
University of Maryland Medical Center

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in The Baltimore Sun 02/08/12, in the Taste section.

Ah, L’Amour. It’s that time of year when love is in the air and the kitchen. Whether you add gusto to a greeting card or bake a bevy of bites for your better half, here’s the lowdown on which romantic foods may actually rev you up and add some nutrition too. Aphrodisiacs are foods used historically to get blood flowing, stimulate hormones or affections, promote fertility, raise body temperature or just be psychologically suggestive. Whether they actually work is subjective, but you can bet your libido on this list of healthy picks. Multiple foods are considered aphrodisiacs but those noted here (in italics) are rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants: now that’s seductive!

Sassy Sweets
Life is short: eat dessert first. Pick up some chocolate and do it in the dark. Dark chocolate is higher in cocoa and lower in sugar: try it melted or as a fondue with fresh pineapple and watermelon.

Here’s a chocolate fondue recipe with espresso.

Rally some raspberries with slivers of fresh aromatic mint leaves. Get your endorphins going with honey: try drizzling it on fresh fruit, like grapes or bananas, which can also be baked into bran muffins or sliced into whole wheat pancakes: don’t forget to add the vanilla bean. Fit fancy figs into your festivities or pop pomegranate seeds for pleasure.

And consider champagne, which in moderation can be enjoyed with some strawberries. End the meal with a stimulating demitasse of coffee stirred with cinnamon.

Savory & Sensual
Looking to zap some zest in your zucchini or liven up your linguine? See red with spices and capsaicin-rich hot chilies. An asparagus appetizer, like revenge, can best be served cold with a sexy citrus dipping sauce. Or try arousing avocado mixed with olive oil, tomatoes, onion and garlic as guacamole, served with carrots, celery, radish and red peppers. Herbs like basil, rosemary and sage add bright color and flavor with minimal effort. Increase excitement with ginger, nutmeg, saffron and mustard.

Up the satisfaction of salad with arugula, and increase virility with bites of broccoli rabe and other bitter mustard greens.

Steam up attraction with artichokes: try roasted garlic and artichokes.

Ruby-red wine can be stirred in stews or used as a marinade (the alcohol burns off as the food cooks).

Powerful Protein
Looking for love? Try oysters, but cook before eating as a food safety precaution. Nuts seduce in so many ways, so sprinkle pine nuts into a white bean chili or top off a meal with fragrant almonds, pistachios or licorice-flavored fennel, coriander and anise seeds. Toss your salad with walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed. Get big flavor in a small package with musky truffles (the mushroom, not the candy): found in specialty stores. Get euphoric with eggs: consider a frittata built with black beans to offer a high-fiber expression of desire. Seductive salmon should be Coho, Pacific or wild Alaskan (but not farmed): top it with a small dollop of lusty caviar, or try almond-crusted salmon.

Master Your Meal

Whether planning a quickie feast or an all-day affair, adding aphrodisiac foods can be fun and nutritious. Gustatory stimulation starts in the nose and the eye, so allow aromas to waft in the air and serve passionate colors on a beautifully prepared plate to tempt all the senses. When in doubt, use heart-shaped cookie cutters, and set the table with a bouquet of roses. For more tips and tidbits, see Inter Courses: an Aphrodisiac Cookbook by Hopkins and Lockridge.