Articles by Lauren Mirkin

Nutritious Noshing


ou probably know that the word nosh comes to us from Yiddish, which in turn took it from the German naschen, “to nibble.” Most of us think of nosherai – snack food – as junk food. But noshing can also mean simply eating between meals, without the unhealthy connotation. So how can we nudge ourselves toward more nutritious noshing? 

To start, I have a challenge for you: keep track of your noshing for three days. Yes, write down all those between-meal chips, cookies, fruits, and granola bars. Then analyze what you see. Do you have a snack at least once a day? If so, you are like nine in ten Americans, according to national dietary surveys. The fact is, noshing even several times daily is not inherently good or bad. It all depends on the quality of the foods you’re eating. Many of the most common snacks, such as chips, cookies, and candy bars, are high in salt or sugar and may contain poor-quality fats and other undesirable ingredients. This is not ideal. There are many better choices available. For example, choosing snacks that are high in protein can actually provide many health benefits. 

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Better Your Health with Beets


Beets are back! Beets are the “hot new superfood,” claims a recent article in the LA Times. And with consumers wanting quicker and easier access to their versatile properties, many companies have been producing beets in an ever-increasing variety of forms, including vacuum-packed, peeled fresh beets and beets jarred in vinaigrettes. The vibrantly hued vegetables have become more popular than ever as an ingredient in colorful salads and side dishes. They have even found their way into dessert recipes, such as chocolate fudge cupcakes.

If you’re familiar only with red beets, you’ll be delighted to learn that beets can be found in array of shades. According to Molly Watson of, “Beets come in a range of colors and sizes, from red and yellow to stunning candy-cane-striped Chioggia beets.”

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Three Cheers for Cherries!


Ever wonder where cherries get their vibrant red color? The secret to these red gems is in pigments known as anthocyanins, a group of compounds whose colors can range from bright red-orange to blue-violet. They are found in many fruits and vegetables and provide a protective mechanism against environmental stresses such as cold temperatures and drought. 

Nutrition researcher Denise Webb writes in Today’s Dietician that, “while the answers to how and why anthocyanins may help prevent disease remain undiscovered or unexplained, the literature is intriguing, and most researchers are calling for more studies to explore the potential health benefits of these naturally occurring compounds.”

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) website adds additional information about the nutritional benefits of cherries with this statement: “Lab studies suggest that the phytochemical anthocyanin, credited with giving cherries their notable red hue, has been recognized for its antioxidant power.” Antioxidants help prevent damage to healthy cells caused by free radicals, an unstable molecule. This destructive process contributes to the development of many diseases. A study published in 2013 in the American Society for Nutrition found that sweet Bing cherries lowered inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) for chronic disease in healthy humans.

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Leveraging Food Psychology – and Avoiding Mindless Eating


Do you have a hard time getting your family members to eat leftover cholent on Sunday night? What if simply calling it something else could increase their interest in this leftover fare? How about “Tasty Bean Stew” or “Classic Old-World Goulash”?

Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and a well-known expert in consumer behavior relating to food and nutrition, calls this strategy “menu magic.” He has documented how descriptive words with sensory appeal – such as “succulent” or “herb encrusted” – can influence our appetite and our desire to eat certain foods.

We’ve all seen how restaurants and food merchandisers take full advantage of this principle, and similar ones, to stoke consumers’ appetites. But some of these same ideas, distilled from the work of Wansink and others, can also help to decrease mindless eating. They can help you naturally self-regulate the amount of food you consume and arrive at the balance that is just right for you. In other words, you can remove or mitigate some of the environmental cues that lead you to overeat.

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Bring on the Beans and Boost your Well-Being


The second week of November is National Split Pea Soup week, which is not exactly headline news, but it does give me an opportunity to write about peas and related legumes. As a clinical nutritionist, I am always happy to pontificate on the health benefits of such a humble but nutrient-dense food group.

First, let’s get some terminology straight. Legumes, also known as pulses in the UK, are the broad category that includes beans, peas, and lentils. But nowadays, many people just use the simple term “beans” interchangeably with legumes, to refer to the whole category. And that’s what I’ll use in this article.

Beans come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. In addition, they can be eaten in many forms, including whole or split, ground into flours, or as separate “fractions,” such as protein, fiber, or starch.

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Appealing Appetizers for Your Yom Tov Table

fruit salad

Ever wonder where the concept of having mini-servings of food before the main course originated from? It was actually those ancient Romans who first introduced the idea of a set order to meals. They also promulgated the idea of serving small portions of food at the beginning of a meal to stimulate the appetite and aid in digestion. According to The World of Jewish Cooking, by Gil Marks, Ashkenazic Jews later followed the Roman-German practice of serving a first course, called a forspice (Yiddish for “before food”) to start the meal.

Master herbalist, K.P. Singh, writing on explains more about the health connection to appetizers: “Before sitting down to the main courses, start with an appetizer that gets the juices flowing. Small portions of pungent, bitter, and sour tastes especially stimulate digestive juices.”

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